Skip to main content

Full text of "Egypt : a country study"

See other formats

area handbook series 


a country study 



a country study 

Federal Research Division 
Library of Congress 
Edited by 
Helen Chapin Metz 
Research Completed 
December 1990 

On the cover: A representation of Tutankhamen (1347- 

1337 B.C.), pharaoh of the New Kingdom, on his throne 

Fifth Edition, First Printing, 1991. 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 

Egypt: a country study / Federal Research Division, Library of 
Congress ; edited by Helen Chapin Metz. — 5th ed. 

p. cm. — (Area handbook series, ISSN 1057-5294) (DA 
pam ; 550-43) 

Previous ed. has statement of responsibility: Foreign Area 
Studies, the American University : edited by Richard F. Nyrop. 
"Research completed December 1990." 
Includes bibiliography (pp. 369-391) and index. 
ISBN 0-8444-0729-1 

1. Egypt. I. Metz, Helen Chapin, 1928- . II. Library of 
Congress. Federal Research Division. III. Series. IV. Series: 

DA pam ; 550-43. 
DT46.E32 1991 91-29876 
962— dc20 CIP 

Headquarters, Department of the Army 
DA Pam 550-43 

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office 
Washington, D.C. 20402 


This volume is one in a continuing series of books prepared by 
the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress under 
the Country Studies — Area Handbook Program sponsored by the 
Department of the Army. The last page of this book lists the other 
published studies. 

Most books in the series deal with a particular foreign country, 
describing and analyzing its political, economic, social, and national 
security systems and institutions, and examining the interrelation- 
ships of those systems and the ways they are shaped by cultural 
factors. Each study is written by a multidisciplinary team of social 
scientists. The authors seek to provide a basic understanding of 
the observed society, striving for a dynamic rather than a static 
portrayal. Particular attention is devoted to the people who make 
up the society, their origins, dominant beliefs and values, their com- 
mon interests and the issues on which they are divided, the nature 
and extent of their involvement with national institutions, and their 
attitudes toward each other and toward their social system and 
political order. 

The books represent the analysis of the authors and should not 
be construed as an expression of an official United States govern- 
ment position, policy, or decision. The authors have sought to 
adhere to accepted standards of scholarly objectivity. Corrections, 
additions, and suggestions for changes from readers will be wel- 
comed for use in future editions. 

Louis R. Mortimer 

Federal Research Division 
Library of Congress 
Washington, D.C. 20540 



The authors wish to acknowledge the contributions of the writers 
of the 1983 edition of Egypt: A Country Study, edited by Richard 
F. Nyrop. Their work provided general background for the present 

The authors are grateful to individuals in various government 
agencies and private institutions who gave of their time, research 
materials, and expertise in the production of this book. These in- 
dividuals included Ralph K. Benesch, who oversees the Country 
Studies — Area Handbook program for the Department of the Army. 
The authors also wish to thank members of the Federal Research 
Division staff who contributed directly to the preparation of the 
manuscript. These people included Thomas Collelo, the substan- 
tive reviewer of all the graphic and textual material; Sandra W. 
Meditz, who reviewed all drafts and served as liaison with the spon- 
soring agency; and Martha E. Hopkins and Marilyn Majeska, who 
managed editing and book production. 

Also involved in preparing the text were editorial assistants Bar- 
bara Edgerton and Izella Watson; Richard Kollodge and Ruth Nie- 
land, who edited chapters; Beverly Wolpert, who performed the 
prepublication editorial review; and Joan C. Cook, who compiled 
the index. Linda Peterson of the Library of Congress Compos- 
ing Unit prepared the camera-ready copy under the supervision 
of Peggy Pixley. 

Graphics were prepared by David P. Cabitto, and Timothy L. 
Merrill reviewed map drafts. David P. Cabitto and Greenhorne 
and O'Mara prepared the final maps. Special thanks are owed to 
Marty Ittner, who prepared the illustrations on the title page of 
each chapter, and David P. Cabitto, who did the cover art. 

The authors would like to thank Ly H. Burnham, who assisted 
with demographic data. Finally, the authors acknowledge the 
generosity of the many individuals and public and private agen- 
cies, especially the Press and Information Bureau of the Arab 
Republic of Egypt, who allowed their photographs to be used in 
this study. 



Foreword iii 

Acknowledgments v 

Preface xiii 

Country Profile XV 

Introduction xxiii 

Chapter 1. Historical Setting 1 

Mary Ann Fay 


The Predynastic Period and the First and 

Second Dynasties, 6000-2686 B.C 5 

The Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom, and Second 

Intermediate Period, 2686 to 1552 B.C 8 

Pyramid Building in the Old and Middle 

Kingdoms 9 

The New Kingdom and Third Intermediate 

Period, 1552-664 B.C 10 

Art and Architecture in the New Kingdom 11 

The Cult of the Sun God and Akhenaten's 

Monotheism 12 

The Late Period, 664-323 B.C 12 


332 B.C.-A.D. 642 13 

The Alexandrian Conquest 13 

The Ptolemaic Period 14 

Egypt under Rome and Byzantium, 

30 B.C.-A.D. 640 15 


The Arab Conquest, 639-41 18 

The Tulinids, Ikhshidids, Fatimids, 

and Ayyubids, 868-1260 21 

The Mamluks, 1250-1517 23 



The Neo-Mamluk Beylicate, 1760-98 25 

The French Invasion and Occupation, 1798-1801 ... 26 


Muhammad Ali, 1805-48 28 

Abbas Hilmi I, 1848-54 and Said, 1854-63 31 

Social Change in the Nineteenth Century 32 



Khedive Ismail, 1863-79 35 

From Intervention to Occupation, 1876-82 37 


1882-1923 42 

The Occupiers 42 

Economy and Society under Occupation 43 

Egypt under the Protectorate and the 

1919 Revolution 46 



The Rise and Decline of the Wafd, 1924-39 49 

Egypt During the War, 1939-45 52 

On the Threshold of Revolution, 1945-52 53 

The Revolution and the Early Years of the 

New Government, 1952-56 56 

Egypt and the Arab World 65 

Nasser and Arab Socialism 66 

Egypt, the Arabs, and Israel 67 

The War with Israel, 1967 68 


Internal Relations 69 

External Relations 71 

Nasser's Legacy 74 

Sadat Takes Over, 1970-73 76 

October 1973 War 77 

Political Developments, 1971-78 80 

Egypt's New Direction 82 

Peace with Israel 83 

The Aftermath of Camp David and the 

Assassination of Sadat 85 


Chapter 2. The Society and Its Environment 91 

Eric Hooglund 


Physical Size and Borders 95 

Natural Regions 96 

Climate 102 



Population Control Policies 104 

Major Cities 105 

Emigration 108 

Minorities 110 


Urban Society 114 

Rural Society 119 


Importance of Kinship 124 

Attitudes Toward Women 127 

Changing Status of Women 130 


Islam 130 

Coptic Church 140 

Other Religious Minorities 143 



Chapter 3. The Economy 155 

Sharif S. Elmusa 



Infrastructure 160 

Transportation 160 

Communications 165 


Mubarak's Gradualism? 167 

Development Planning 168 

Pricing and Subsidy 169 

Exchange Rates 170 

Public Finance 171 

Banking, Credit, and Inflation 173 

LABOR 175 

Employment 175 

Wages 178 


The Food Gap 180 

Land Ownership and Reform 182 

Land Reclamation and Loss 184 

Pricing Policy 186 

Cropping Patterns, Production, and Yield 188 

Technology 193 



Energy 197 

Mining 200 

Manufacturing 200 


Exports 208 

Imports 208 

Trade Partners 209 



Petroleum 210 

Suez Canal 211 

Remittances 212 

Tourism 214 

Current Account Balance 216 

Capital Account and Capital Grants 216 

Direct Foreign Investment 217 

Loans 218 


Chapter 4. Government and Politics 227 

Raymond A. Hinnebusch, Jr. 


ELITE 230 

The Presidency 230 

The President and the Power Elite 232 

The Prime Minister, the Council of Ministers, 

and the Policy-making Process 236 

The Road to Power: Recruitment and Composition 

of the Elite 237 

Elite Ideology 241 

Politics among Elites 244 

The Bureaucracy and Policy Implementation 251 

Local Government 253 



Parliament 255 

The Judiciary, Civil Rights, and the Rule of Law . . . 258 

The Political Role of the Media 260 

Interest Groups 262 


The ''Dominant Party" System 267 


The Limits of Incorporation: The Rise of Political 

Islam and the Continuing Role of Repression 275 


The Determinants of Foreign Policy 279 

Foreign Policy Decision Making 281 

The Development of Foreign Policy 282 

Chapter 5. National Security 291 

Jean R. Tartter 


The Egyptian Military in World War II 295 

First Arab-Israeli War 296 

The 1956 War 296 

The June 1967 War 297 

War of Attrition and the October 1973 War 299 





Army 306 

Air Force 311 

Navy 313 

Air Defense Force 315 

Training and Education 316 

Conscription and Reserves 319 

Conditions of Service 320 

Defense Spending 322 

Military Justice 324 

Uniforms and Insignia 325 


Production of Civilian Goods 325 

Defense Industry 328 



Muslim Extremism 334 

Leftist Organizations 336 

Police 337 

Intelligence Services 341 


The Judicial System 342 

Incidence of Crime 344 

Drug Trafficking 346 

The Penal System 347 


Appendix. Tables 351 

Bibliography 369 

Glossary 393 

Index 397 

List of Figures 

1 Administrative Divisions of Egypt, 1990 xxii 

2 Ancient Egypt 6 

3 Natural Regions 98 

4 Estimated Population Distribution by Age and Sex, 

1986 106 

5 Transportation System, 1990 162 

6 The Presidency, 1990 234 

7 Principal Military Installations in the Sinai Peninsula, 

1989 298 

8 Organization of National Defense, 1989 309 

9 Military Ranks and Insignia, 1990 326 



This edition of Egypt: A Country Study replaces the previous edi- 
tion published in 1983. Like its predecessor, the present book at- 
tempts to treat in a compact and objective manner the dominant 
historical, social, economic, political, and national security aspects 
of contemporary Egypt. Sources of information included scholar- 
ly books, journals, and monographs; official reports and documents 
of governments and international organizations; and foreign and 
domestic newspapers and periodicals. Relatively up-to-date eco- 
nomic data were available from several sources, but the sources 
were not always in agreement. 

Chapter bibliographies appear at the end of the book; brief com- 
ments on some of the more valuable sources for further reading 
appear at the conclusion of each chapter. Measurements are given 
in the metric system; a conversion table is provided to assist those 
who are unfamiliar with the metric system (see table 1, Appen- 
dix). Landholdings, however, are presented infeddans, a unit of 
measure that remains in general use although Egypt officially uses 
the metric system. One feddan equals 1.038 acres. The Glossary 
provides brief definitions of terms, such as feddan, that may be un- 
familiar to the general reader. 

The information available on ancient and modern Egypt is 
detailed and voluminous. Limitations of space and time, however, 
precluded the presentation of anything more than a short survey. 

The transliteration of Arabic words and phrases posed a partic- 
ular problem. For many of the words — such as Muhammad, Mus- 
lim, Quran, and shaykh — the authors followed a modified version 
of the system adopted by the United States Board on Geographic 
Names and the Permanent Committee on Geographic Names for 
British Official Use, known as the BGN/PCGN system; the modifi- 
cation entails the omission of all diacritical markings and hyphens. 
In numerous instances, however, the names of persons or places 
are so well known by another spelling that to have used the 
BGN/PCGN system may have created confusion. For example, 
the reader will find Cairo rather than Al Qahirah, Giza rather than 
Al Jizah, Suez rather than As Suways, and Gamal Abdul Nasser 
rather than Jamal Abd an Nasr. For some place-names, two trans- 
literations have been provided (see fig. 1). 


Country Profile 


Formal Name: Arab Republic of Egypt. 
Short Form: Egypt. 
Term for Citizens: Egyptians. 
Capital: Cairo. 


Size: Approximately 1 million square kilometers. 

Topography: Four major regions: Nile Valley and Delta, where 
about 99 percent of population lives; Western Desert; Eastern Desert; 
and Sinai Peninsula. 

Climate: Except for modest amounts of rainfall along Mediterra- 
nean coast, precipitation ranges from minimal to nonexistent. Mild 


winters (November to April) and hot summers (May to October). 


Population: Estimated at more than 52.5 million in mid- 1990, 
mostly concentrated along banks of Nile River. Annual growth rate 
estimated at 2.6 percent. 

Education and Literacy: Education compulsory for basic nine- 
year cycle but attendance not enforced; approximately 16 percent 
of school-age children did not attend. Literacy approximately 45 
percent in 1990. 

Health and Welfare: Ministry of Health provided health care at 
variety of public medical facilities. Urban-rural distribution of health 
care generally biased in favor of larger cities. Average nutrition 
compared favorably with most middle- and low-income countries. 
Average life expectancy at birth fifty-nine years for men and sixty 
years for women in 1989. 

Language: Arabic. 

Ethnic Groups: Egyptians, beduins, Greeks, Nubians, Armeni- 
ans, and Berbers. 

Religion: Almost 90 percent Sunni Muslims, 8.5 percent Coptic 
Christians, 1.5 percent other Christians. 


Gross Domestic Product (GDP): US$45.08 billion, or US$867 
per capita in 1988. Economy experienced sluggish growth after 

Agriculture: Single largest source of employment; contributed 15 
percent of GDP in 1987. Major crops by area planted (in descending 
order): clover for livestock feed, corn, wheat, vegetables, rice, cot- 
ton, and fruit. Heavily dependent on food imports. Some reforms 
in pricing implemented in 1980s. 

Industry: Contributed 34 percent of GDP in 1987. Share of 
manufacturing in GDP 12 percent; sector stagnated in 1980s. 
Manufacturing produced mainly consumer goods but also some 
basic industries such as iron and steel, aluminum, and cement. 
Manufacturing dominated by public sector; consensus that sector 
needed reform. Oil share of GDP fell considerably with crash of 
oil prices in late 1985. Oil production averaged 42.7 tons per year 
between 1984 and 1988. Gas acquiring added importance in 1980s. 


Exports: US$4.8 billion in 1988, of which oil was US$3.1 billion. 
Textiles US$458 million and other manufacturing US$810 mil- 
lion. Cotton (major export before late 1970s) US$310 million. Ex- 
ports stagnated in 1980s. 

Imports: US$10.6 billion, of which intermediate goods US$3.7 
billion, capital goods US$3 billion, consumer goods US$2 billion, 
and food and agriculture US$1.7 billion. Trade deficit increased 
rapidly in first half of 1980s and stabilized in second half. 

Debt: Civilian US$35 billion in 1988 (forecast); military US$10.8 
billion. Negotiations with International Monetary Fund continu- 
ing in early 1990 on debt rescheduling and economic restructuring. 

Currency: Egyptian pound (£E) consists of 100 piasters. In early 
1990, worth between US$1 .00 and US$1 .50 depending on applica- 
ble exchange rate. 

Fiscal Year: Since July 1, 1980, July 1 through June 30. 

Transportation and Communications 

Railroads: More than 4,800 kilometers of track, 950 kilometers 
of which double-tracked. Bulk of system standard gauge (1.435 
meters), but 347 kilometers narrow gauge (0.75 meter). Twenty- 
five -kilometer suburban transit link between Cairo and industrial 
suburb of Hulwan electrified. Southern part of Cairo Metro opened 
1987; northeast line opened 1989. Ferry at Aswan connects Egyp- 
tian Railways to Sudanese system. 

Roads: More than 49,000 kilometers, of which about 15,000 kilo- 
meters paved, 2,500 kilometers gravel, 31,500 kilometers earthen. 

Inland Waterways: About 3,500 kilometers, consisting mainly of 
Nile River and several canals in Delta. 

Suez Canal: About 160 kilometers for international shipping be- 
tween Red and Mediterranean seas. Reopened in 1975. Capable 
of handling ships of 150,000 deadweight tons laden and 16 meters 
draft. In 1987 17,541 ships transited canal with 257,000 tons of 
cargo, earning Egypt US$1.22 billion. 

Ports: Alexandria main port. Port Said and Suez other two large 
ports. Phosphates shipped from Bur Safajah on the Red Sea. Port 
near Alexandria remained under construction in 1990. 

Pipelines: About 1,400 kilometers for domestic crude oil and refined 
products plus about 600 kilometers for natural gas. 


Airports: Sixty- six airfields but only Cairo and Alexandria han- 
dled international traffic. 

Telecommunications: Well developed radio and television facili- 
ties; shortage of telephones. Numerous international communica- 
tions links. 

Government and Politics 

Government: Constitution of 1971 delegates majority of power to 
president, who dominates two-chamber legislature — lower People's 
Assembly and upper Consultative Council, created in 1980 from 
the old Central Committee of the Arab Socialist Union — and judi- 
ciary, although each constitutionally independent. President pos- 
sesses virtually unrestricted power to appoint and dismiss officials, 
including vice president or vice presidents, prime minister and 
members of Council of Ministers, military officers, and governors 
of the twenty- six administrative subdivisions known as governorates. 

Politics: President Husni Mubarak (1981- ), former military 
officer, as were his predecessors: Gamal Abdul Nasser (1954-70) 
and Anwar as Sadat (1970-81). Nasser was leader and Sadat mem- 
ber of Free Officers' group that overthrew monarchy in 1952 Revo- 
lution. President dominated National Democratic Party formed in 
1977. Opposition composed of number of secular and religious par- 
ties in legislature, of which Muslim Brotherhood was the chief, and 
some nonparliamentary Islamic extremist groups. 

International Organizations: Member of United Nations and its 
specialized agencies; Organization of African Unity; and Nonaligned 
Movement. Founding member of League of Arab States (Arab 
League), headquartered in Cairo until after Egypt signed peace 
treaty with Israel in March 1979. Arab League expelled Egypt and 
moved headquarters out of country. In 1990 Arab League head- 
quarters returned to Cairo. 

National Security 

Armed Forces (1989): Total personnel on active duty 445,000, 
including draftees mostly serving for three years. Reserves totaled 
about 300,000. Component services: army of 320,000 (estimated 
180,000 conscripts), navy of 20,000 including 2,000 Coast Guard 
(10,000 conscripts), and air force of 30,000 (10,000 conscripts). 
Air Defense Force separate service of 80,000 (50,000 conscripts). 

Major Tactical Military Units (1988): Army: four armored di- 
visions, six mechanized infantry divisions, two infantry divisions, 


four independent infantry brigades, three mechanized brigades, 
one armored brigade, two air mobile brigades, one paratroop 
brigade, Republican Guard armored brigade, two heavy mortar 
brigades, fourteen artillery brigades, two surface-to-surface mis- 
sile (SSM) regiments, and seven commando groups. 

Navy: Twelve submarines, one destroyer (training), five frigates, 
twenty-five fast-attack craft (missile), eighteen fast-attack craft 
(torpedo), minesweepers, and landing ships. 

Air Force: About 440 combat aircraft and 72 armed helicopters; 
force organized into one bomber squadron, ten fighter- ground at- 
tack squadrons, thirteen fighter squadrons, two reconnaissance 
squadrons, and fifteen helicopter squadrons, plus electronic moni- 
toring, early warning, transport, and training aircraft. Air Defense 
Force organized into more than 230 battalions of antiaircraft guns 
and SAMs. 

Military Equipment (1989): Tanks and armored personnel ve- 
hicles a mix of older Soviet and newer United States models. Other 
major equipment included Soviet artillery and mortars; Soviet, 
French, United States, and British antitank rockets and missiles; 
and mostly Soviet tactical air defense weapons. Egypt planned to 
coproduce with United States 540 Abrams M1A1 tanks beginning 
in 1991. Air force fighters included F-16s and F-4s from United 
States and Mirage 2000s from France, backed by large number 
of older Soviet designs. Most fighting ships of Soviet or Chinese 
origin, although fleet included two modern frigates built in Spain 
and six British missile boats. Air Defense Force had more than 600 
Soviet SA-2 and SA-3 SAMs plus 108 improved Hawk SAMs from 
United States. 

Defense Budget: Authoritative data not available although minister 
of defense claimed spending £E2.4 billion or 10 percent of total 
government outlays in 1989. Other sources believed defense ex- 
penditures twice as high as claimed, even excluding US$1.3 bil- 
lion in military aid from United States, aid from Saudi Arabia, 
and income from other sources such as foreign sales of domestic 
defense industry. 

Internal Security Forces: Principal security agencies — national 
police force of more than about 122,000 members and Central Secu- 
rity Forces, a paramilitary body of about 300,000, mosdy conscripts, 
which augmented regular police in guarding buildings and strategic 
sites and controlling demonstrations. Several other government agen- 
cies had own law enforcement bodies. General Directorate for State 


Security Investigations main intelligence organization monitoring 
suspected subversive and opposition groups and suppressing Is- 
lamic extremists. 


i istrat i ve 

Divisions of Egypt 



r o (Al Qahirah) 

<andria (Al Iskandariyah) 

t Said (Bur Said) 

•z (As Suways) 


ailia (Al Ismailiyah) 
nietta (Dumyat) 
r ash Shaykh 




i Suwayf 





f an 


' Sea (Al Bahr al Ahmar) 

f Valley (Al Wadi al Jadid) 


\h Sinai 
th Sinai 



Port Said 




Kafr ash Shaykh 


Al Mansurah 
Az Zaqaziq 
Shibin a I Kawm 


Al Fayyum 

Bani Suwayf 

Al Minya 





Al Ghardaqah 
Al Kharijah 
Marsa Matruh 
Al Arish 
At Tur 


and Asia, contemporary Egypt is the inheritor of a civilization dating 
back more than 6,000 years. The unification of Upper Egypt and 
Lower Egypt in the third millennium B.C. required the develop- 
ment of administrative and religious structures, and the monuments 
that remain demonstrate the mathematical, astronomical, and ar- 
chitectural skills attained in constructing rock tombs, temples, and 
pyramids — the latter dedicated to the divine kings, the pharaohs. 

Egypt's strategic location has made it the object of numerous 
conquests: by the Ptolemies, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Fatimids, 
Mamluks, Ottomans, and Napoleon Bonaparte. The most recent 
conquerors, the British, granted Egypt partial independence in 1922 
and withdrew completely in 1954. Of these foreign rules, the Arab 
Muslim conquest, by its arabization and Islamization, had the 
greatest impact on Egyptian life and culture, resulting in the rapid 
conversion of the overwhelming majority of the population to Islam 
and the spread of Sunni Muslim religious and educational institu- 
tions. Shia Islam, represented by the Fatimid conquest in 969, led 
to the founding the same year of Al Azhar, later transformed into 
a Sunni theological school, and in the 1990s still regarded as the 
outstanding interpreter of Islamic religious law (sharia). 

The rule of Muhammad Ali (1805-48), an Albanian officer in 
the army of the Ottoman sultan, who succeeded in detaching Egypt 
from Ottoman control, represented another major influence on 
Egypt's history. Muhammad Ali encouraged the development of 
Egypt by introducing long-staple cotton as a major crop; by ex- 
panding Egypt's infrastructure through a network of canals, irri- 
gation systems, and roads; and by promoting secular education. 
His efforts to create a manufacturing sector failed, however, in part 
because Britain's tariff policies were designed to favor the import 
of raw materials to be processed in Britain. 

For contemporary Egypt, the Free Officers' 1952 Revolution, 
spearheaded by Gamal Abdul Nasser, has clearly been the forma- 
tive event. Nasser's charismatic leadership institutionalized the role 
of the military and created an authoritarian state that pursued goals 
of "Arab socialism." These goals centered on the implementation 
of agrarian reform, nationalization of key industries, a one-party 
state (the Arab Socialist Union — ASU) domestically, and closer 
ties with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe internationally. 


AHminictratiwo H i \/ i c i n n c n f Pnunt 




City Governorates 

/. Cairo (Al Qahirah) 


2. Alexandria (Al Iskandariyah) 


3. Port Said (Bur Said) 

Port Said 

4, Suez (As Suways) 


Lower Egypt 

5. Ismailia (Al Ismailiyah) 


6. Al Buhayrah 


7. Damietta (Dumyat) 


8. Kafr ash Shaykh 

Kafr ash Shaykh 

9. Al Gharbiyah 


10. Ad Daqahliyah 

Al Mansurah 

11. Ash Sharqiyah 

Az Zaqaziq 

12. Al Minufiyah 

Shibin al Kawm 

13. Al Qalyubiyah 


Upper Egypt 

14. Giza (Al Jizah) 


15. Al Fay yum 

Al Fay yum 

16. Bani Suwayf 

Bani Suwayf 

17. Al Minya 

Al Minya 

18. Asyut 


19. Suhaj 


20. Qina 


21. Aswan 


Frontier Governorates 

22. Red Sea (Al Bahr al Ahmar) 

Al Ghardaqah 

23. New Valley (Al Wadi al Jadid) 

Al Kharijah 

24. Matruh 

25. North Sinai 

Al Arish 

26. South Sinai 

At Tur 

Major events of Nasser's regime included the construction of the 
Aswan High Dam with Soviet aid; the take-over of the Suez Canal 
in 1956, which led to the 1956 War and the British-French-Israeli 
Tripartite Invasion of the Sinai Peninsula (also known as Sinai); 
and the short-lived Egyptian- Syrian union as the United Arab 
Republic (1958-61). Egyptian participation in the June 1967 War 
with Israel resulted in Egypt's loss of the Gaza Strip and Sinai and 
the so-called War of Attrition along the Suez Canal in 1969-70. 

Nasser's death brought to office his vice president, Anwar as 
Sadat, also a military man but more conservative in political out- 
look than his predecessor. Sadat's rule has been characterized as 
patriarchal, a return to a traditional method of government that 
relied on clientelism. Sadat demilitarized the state in favor of the 
bourgeoisie and opened Egypt to capitalism and to the West through 
the infitah (opening or open door; see Glossary) in 1974. Sadat also 
moved toward some democratization and constitutionalism, repre- 
sented by the Constitution of 1971, which, however, concentrated 
power in the hands of the president. Sadat's early successes in the 
October 1973 War with Israel made him a popular hero and psy- 
chologically boosted the morale of Egyptians. In an attempt to end 
the state of war with Israel, Sadat journeyed to Jerusalem in Novem- 
ber 1977; as a next step, through the mediation of United States 
president Jimmy Carter, he signed the Camp David Accords in Sep- 
tember 1978 and the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in March 1979. 
These actions, however, and Sadat's increasing repression of domes- 
tic opposition, resulted in Egypt's being cut off from the rest of the 
Arab world and ultimately led to Sadat's assassination by a Mus- 
lim extremist group, Al Jihad (Holy War), in October 1981. 

Husni Mubarak, Sadat's vice president, took over the govern- 
ment and was initially regarded by many as an interim president. 
He demonstrated a commitment to gradualism aimed at modifying 
and preserving the best elements of his predecessors' accomplish- 
ments while building domestic consensus, tolerating opposition, 
promoting an equal partnership between the public and private sec- 
tors, allowing greater democracy and constitutionalism, and relying 
on technocrats for advice. In addition, through skillful diplomacy 
he gained Egypt's return to the Arab fold in 1987 and assumed a 
leadership role in the Arab world. Simultaneously he maintained good 
relations with the West and improved relations with the Soviet Union. 

Mubarak's gradualism seemed to many observers a useful leader- 
ship characteristic for contemporary Egypt. For example, he strove 
to prevent the small but growing number of Muslim extremists, 
sometimes referred to as fundamentalists, from exercising dispro- 
portionate influence over the moderate body of Muslims, who in 


November 1990 constituted approximately 90 percent of the coun- 
try's population of about 56 million persons. (In announcing the 
population figure, the Census Bureau stated that the population 
has increased by 1 million persons in nine months and seven days.) 
Although concerned about the intimidation of Christian minori- 
ties, mainly Copts, at the hands of Muslim extremists, as of mid- 
1991, the government has been unable to prevent young Coptic 
Christians from acting on their own to counter acts of violence 
against their religious centers and property. 

Since the 1952 Revolution, the government has appointed the 
functionaries of mosques and Islamic religious schools. The growth 
of Islamic political movements, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, 
and of Islamic associations in universities resulted in increased pres- 
sure on the government in the 1980s for application of the sharia 
in legal decisions. Mubarak acceded to the gradual application of 
the process. 

The 1952 Revolution also expanded secular education, and from 
1964 to 1974 the government was obliged by law to hire all those 
with higher education degrees. The practice led to an overstaffed 
and ineffective bureaucracy. The infitah ended this hiring require- 
ment, but by the mid-1980s unemployment among university grad- 
uates was estimated to be as high as 30 percent. 

The 1952 Revolution initiated free health care at public health 
facilities. Although these services continued in the early 1990s, facil- 
ities often lacked adequate medical personnel. In addition, a social 
security program was begun in the 1960s. 

The 1952 Revolution had given priority to economic develop- 
ment and had made the state the prime economic agent of Arab 
socialism. The National Charter of 1962 clearly spelled out the 
state's role. The role of the private sector, however, was consider- 
ably enlarged by the infitah after the October 1973 War, and private- 
sector employees on average received three times the salaries of 
government workers. Mubarak encouraged private investment but 
funds flowed largely into the service sector and agriculture rather 
than into industry, despite government development plans (1982-86, 
1987-91) designed to promote the latter. The shortage of skilled per- 
sonnel, especially in the technical and industrial spheres, also had 
a major impact on the economy. 

Agricultural production had not benefited significantly from the 
development process. By 1990, although production had shifted 
away from concentration on long-staple cotton to such crops as rice, 
fruits, and vegetables, self-sufficiency had fallen below the 1960 
level. Only approximately 3 percent of Egypt's land was suitable 
for agriculture. Despite postrevolutionary land reforms, increased 


mechanization, and land reclamation programs following the con- 
struction of the Aswan High Dam — a program underway in 1991 
involved 300,000 feddans (see Glossary) to be worked jointly with 
Sudan — Egypt's agricultural output did not keep pace with popu- 
lation growth. Although pricing reforms and the elimination of 
government quotas for most crops helped increase output, produc- 
tion remained insufficient. Part of the problem was lack of proper 
drainage and consequent reduction of optimum yields. In gener- 
al, a major challenge facing Egypt was better exploitation of its 
water resources, including exploration for new underground water, 
particularly in the Western Desert, and improved irrigation tech- 
nology. Government development plans also sought to promote 
generation of electricity and other energy sources such as oil, gas, 
and coal as well as to improve further the transportation network 
of roads, railroads, and canals and to update telecommunications. 

Egypt's major sources of foreign exchange used for development 
projects and for needed imports were oil revenues, Suez Canal tolls, 
tourism income, and workers' remittances from the approximate- 
ly 2.5 million Egyptians working abroad. Added to these were cap- 
ital grants from other Arab states after the October 1973 War and, 
as well, economic and military grants from the United States and 
loans from the Paris Club (the informal name for a consortium 
of eighteen Western creditor nations) after the conclusion of the 
1979 peace treaty with Israel. 

Egypt faced a serious economic situation in the late 1980s and 
early 1990s: stagnation and ultimately negative economic growth 
in addition to heavy indebtedness. After two years of negotiations 
with the International Monetary Fund (IMF — see Glossary), the 
Egyptian government finally concluded a preliminary agreement 
in October 1990 that enabled it to reschedule its US$18 billion debt 
to Paris Club members. The agreement required Egypt to increase 
prices of certain basic commodities such as gas, fuel oil, gasoline, 
electricity, flour, and rice by eliminating or reducing subsidies. 
Mandated, as well, were the devaluation and unification of the Cen- 
tral Bank exchange rate and the exchange rate of commercial banks, 
raising of the interest rate, and reforming of the foreign invest- 
ment law. Egypt also sought to promote privatization of the in- 
dustrial public sector — one of the recommendations of the World 
Bank (see Glossary) — and announced in October 1990 that it would 
establish nine new industrial "free zones" to encourage investment 
and create more jobs. Some officials recognized that, additional- 
ly, the government needed to restructure management style in the 
public sector and banking to encourage greater efficiency and 
productivity. Another economic problem facing Egypt was rising 


inflation, which between 1987 and 1989 had increased between 20 
and 25 percent annually. In early 1991, inflation was estimated 
to have dropped to 1 1 percent, but it nevertheless had a severe im- 
pact especially on lower income groups. 

Egypt also endeavored to improve its trade and financial situa- 
tion by concluding barter agreements that eliminated the need to 
expend foreign currency. For example, in August 1990 it reached 
a five-year agreement with the Soviet Union that was worth £E5 
billion, with other supplemental agreements to follow. 

Egypt's economic situation became particularly critical in 1990 
because of the Persian Gulf crisis. In October, before the crisis de- 
veloped into a war, the World Bank had calculated that Egypt would 
lose US$2.4 billion in remittances from workers in Iraq and Kuwait, 
US$500 million from the loss of exports to Iraq and Kuwait, 
US$500 million from tourism, and US$200 million from Suez Canal 
tolls. In addition, Egyptian minister of international cooperation 
Maurice Makramallah estimated that Egypt would require a fur- 
ther US$900 million to meet the needs of Egyptians repatriated 
from Iraq and Kuwait. In early April 1991, after the war, Egyp- 
tian officials announced that 700,000 Egyptians who had worked 
in Iraq and Kuwait had returned home jobless. Estimates of un- 
employment in early 1991 varied, with some figures as high as 20 
percent, despite the approximate 684,000 visas issued to Egyp- 
tians for work in Saudi Arabia after the Persian Gulf crisis began. 

The estimated costs did not take into account actual war costs 
of sending about 35,000 Egyptian armed forces personnel to Saudi 
Arabia and provisioning them. Saudi Arabia, which in December 
promised US$1 .5 billion, and Kuwait, together with several Euro- 
pean Economic Community (EEC) member nations, had agreed 
to contribute to these costs and to the losses incurred by Egypt's 
economy, but funds were slow in arriving. President George 
Bush of the United States proposed in September that the United 
States forgive Egypt its approximately US$7 billion military debt 
because of Egypt's help in the Persian Gulf crisis; Congress sub- 
sequently endorsed this proposal. This action relieved Egypt of an- 
nual repayments amounting to more than US$700 million. Other 
countries such as Canada, several EEC member states, the Persian 
Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia also forgave Egypt's debt obliga- 
tions. By early November 1990 the total debt cancellation stood 
at about US$14 billion. 

In subsequent action, Egypt sent a delegation in mid-April 1991 
to the IMF requesting an eighteen-month standby agreement and 
a loan. When United States secretary of state James A. Baker III 
visited Cairo in March, he had promised that the United States, 


grateful for Egypt's support in the war with Iraq, would put in 
a good word for Egypt with the IMF. In mid-May the IMF 
approved the standby agreement and granted Egypt a US$372 mil- 
lion loan, but imposed certain additional conditions on the Egyp- 
tian economy. The IMF agreement paved the way for Egypt to 
obtain favorable terms from the Paris Club for its debt to member 
countries. On May 25, it was announced that Egyptian govern- 
ment debts would be reduced 50 percent and advantageous terms 
granted on the remainder. In mid-June the World Bank agreed 
to an additional US$520 million loan to Egypt. 

Meanwhile, with regard to economic development Egypt signed 
an agreement at the end of May 1991 with the African Develop- 
ment Bank for a US$350 million loan to finance part of the Kuray- 
mar power station. This sum was supplemented by contributions 
of US$100 million from the Arab Fund for Social and Economic 
Development, US$100 million from the World Bank, and US$10 
million from the Islamic Bank for Development. On July 10 the 
Egypt Consultative Group, consisting of thirty countries and insti- 
tutions, pledged US$8 billion in aid to Egypt over the next two 
years, more than twice the minimum Egypt had suggested. The 
World Bank, which organized the group, stated that the donors 
had determined on "massive support" for Egypt's reform program, 
which it described as "daring" and "exhaustive." It estimated that 
Egypt had lost approximately US$20 billion as a result of the war 
in the Persian Gulf. 

The endorsement of Egypt's policies represented by the action 
of this World Bank- affiliated group was an encouraging sign. In 
summary, however, Egypt's prospective economic situation depend- 
ed upon several factors: the successful implementation of the IMF 
agreement, its capacity to promote itself as an investment and finan- 
cial center, its role in the region as well as its position as a partner 
of the West, and perhaps most critically, its ability to follow through 
on necessary economic reforms. 

The role of government was prominent not only in Egypt's eco- 
nomic life but also in other spheres, such as political parties, 
parliamentary organization and elections, the judiciary, and the 
military. The Constitution of 1971 validated a mixed presidential- 
parliamentary-cabinet system with power concentrated in the hands 
of the president, who had extensive opportunities to bestow patron- 
age, including the appointment of the prime minister, and who 
could legislate by decree in emergencies. Whereas the People's 
Assembly, the elected lower house, theoretically could exercise a 
check on the president, in reality this did not occur, and the as- 
sembly had no role in foreign affairs or defense matters. The 


upper house, the Consultative Council, was an advisory body creat- 
ed in 1980 when the Central Committee of the Arab Socialist Un- 
ion, then the only legitimate political party, became the nucleus 
of the council. 

Under Mubarak the People's Assembly acquired greater authori- 
ty over minor matters of state and more freedom of debate; as- 
sembly committees also exercised an oversight role with regard to 
cabinet ministers. The dominant political party remained the Na- 
tional Democratic Party (NDP), which had succeeded the ASU, 
but it was largely an appendage of the government. The new Elec- 
toral Law in 1984 limited opposition seats in the assembly to par- 
ties that obtained at least 8 percent of the vote, thereby eliminating 
representation on the part of some of the small fringe parties. In 
May 1990, however, Egypt acquired several new parties: the Green 
Party, the Democratic Unionist Party, and the Young Egypt (Misr 
al Fatah) Party became eligible to run for election. The Supreme 
Administrative Court rejected, however, the application for party 
status of the Nasserite Party on the ground that its program was 
totalitarian. A similar request for party recognition by the Mus- 
lim Brotherhood in January 1990 had been rejected because the 
body had been formed on a religious basis. 

In May 1990, the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that the 
People's Assembly elected in May 1987 was invalid. It so ruled 
because a 1986 amendment to the 1972 Electoral Law was judged 
unconstitutional by reason of its discrimination against indepen- 
dent candidates through use of the closed list system of propor- 
tional representation, requiring selection of a single slate. As a 
result, assembly legislation passed up to June 2 would stand, but 
new elections had to be held under the second-ballot system, in 
which, if no individual received an absolute majority, a run-off 
was held between the top two candidates. Mubarak adjourned the 
existing assembly and called a referendum for October 11 on 
whether the assembly should be dissolved. The referendum resulted 
in new assembly elections called for November 29, with nine legal 
parties authorized to participate. 

In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood and three of the major opposi- 
tion parties — the right-of-center New Wafd Party, the left-of-center 
Socialist Labor Party, and the centrist Liberal Party — declined to 
take part in the elections. They refused because of amendments 
to the 1972 Electoral Law forbidding unified lists (the Muslim 
Brotherhood had combined with the Socialist Labor Party for elec- 
tion purposes) and preventing NDP members from changing al- 
legiance. Other reasons for the abstention of these parties was the 
government's refusal to lift the state of emergency or to allow 


judicial bodies to supervise the election. As a result, in a very low 
voter turnout estimated at between 8 and 25 percent of those eligi- 
ble, the NDP claimed to control 79.6 percent of the new assem- 
bly, with independents holding 19 percent and the left 1.4 percent. 
The NDP percentage included, however, ninety-five independents 
affiliated with the NDP, indicating that party control was not as 
strong as it might seem. An internationally known Egyptian polit- 
ical analyst has said that the 1990 elections showed that local is- 
sues and loyalties counted for more in party politics than political 
platforms and that unless the NDP is separated from the govern- 
ment, Mubarak's desire for reorganization of NDP structure in 
the interests of increased democratization cannot occur. The No- 
vember election was further clouded by the October 12 assassina- 
tion by Muslim extremists of assembly speaker Rafat al Mahjub, 
constitutionally next in line to the president. 

The Persian Gulf crisis and the ensuing war resulted in quan- 
daries for various Egyptian parties other than the NDP. For ex- 
ample, divisions occurred among Islamist groups with some 
supporting Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and others backing Iraq. The 
Muslim Brotherhood decided to end its alliance with the Socialist 
Labor Party and seek to gain party status of its own. The leftist 
parties also experienced confusion, with some members of Tagam- 
mu supporting each side in the Persian Gulf war. 

Evidence of the greater role of constitutionalism was the grow- 
ing independence of the judiciary under Mubarak. Judges increas- 
ingly defended the rights of citizens against the state. The Ministry 
of Interior, however, often ignored court decrees. 

On the foreign affairs front as well, Mubarak followed a policy 
of gradualism. He continued the friendly relations with the West 
established under Sadat but sought a more independent course for 
Egypt. For instance, he improved relations with the Soviet Union 
and rejected United States president Ronald Reagan's proposal 
to take joint military action against Libya. 

A number of events reflected Mubarak's growing confidence in 
asserting his personal role and that of Egypt on the Middle East 
scene. In September 1989, he proposed ten points to enable direct 
Palestinian-Israeli talks on Israeli prime minister Yitzhaq Shamir's 
election plan. The points included international observers for the 
election, withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces from the ballot- 
ing area, an end to Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank 
(see Glossary), and the participation of East Jerusalem residents 
in the election. The Israeli Labor Party endorsed the proposals, 
but the Likud government sharply opposed them. 


Egypt's more prominent role in the international sphere was also 
reflected in Mubarak's April 1990 visits to various Asian and Eu- 
ropean capitals: Beijing, Pyongyang, Moscow, and London. He 
focused primarily on economic matters, seeking debt relief and 
expanded export markets for Egypt. His purpose also included a 
request for political action condemning Israel's settlement of Soviet 
Jewish immigrants in the occupied territories and banning weapons 
proliferation in the Middle East. 

The major event affecting Egypt's relations with the Arab world 
and the broader international sphere was clearly its decision to side 
with Saudi Arabia and the United States in opposing Iraq's inva- 
sion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990. Earlier Mubarak had sought 
unsuccessfully to mediate between Iraq and Kuwait. Egyptians were 
unsympathetic with Iraq despite the presence there of nearly 1 mil- 
lion Egyptian workers because of numerous instances of mistreat- 
ment of Egyptians by Iraq and disenchantment with Saddam 
Husayn's Baath socialism and his authoritarian actions. Mubarak's 
condemnation of Iraq's occupation of Kuwait, therefore, was ini- 
tially popular in Egypt; as the crisis developed into war, however, 
popular support appeared to wane somewhat although observers 
believed Egyptians supported Mubarak's position approximately 
three to one. 

Even before Iraq invaded Kuwait, its threats to that country 
began producing a realignment in the Arab world. In mid-July 
Syrian president Hafiz al Assad paid a historic visit to Cairo after 
thirteen years of separation between the two nations; both coun- 
tries shared a concern about Iraq's growing bellicosity. The visit 
led to the creation of a joint ministerial committee to further cooper- 
ation in the economic, industrial, petroleum, energy, agricultur- 
al, education, and information fields. (At the beginning of April 
1991, after the war, Mubarak and Assad met again in Cairo and 
announced their opposition to breaking up Iraq.) In mid-October 
Libyan president Muammar al Qadhafi visited Cairo, as an after- 
math of which a number of cooperation agreements were also signed. 

A further indication of the new alignment was the majority vote 
in early September 1990 of League of Arab States (Arab League) 
members to return Arab League headquarters to Cairo. Egypt had 
been expelled from the Arab League in 1979 after signing the peace 
treaty with Israel. Readmitted to the Arab League proper in 1989, 
Egypt had subsequently joined several League-affiliated bodies such 
as the Arab Atomic Energy Organization and the Organization 
of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries. The vote indicated the 
split in the organization because only twelve of the twenty-one 


members, those supporting the condemnation of Iraq's invasion 
of Kuwait, sent their foreign ministers to the Cairo meeting; 
representatives of Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, and the 
Palestine Liberation Organization, among others, were conspicu- 
ously absent. 

The rift was underscored by Egypt's announcement of its deci- 
sion in mid-September not to participate further in the Arab Cooper- 
ation Council, a primarily economic body formed in 1989 by Egypt, 
Jordan, Iraq, and the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen, prior 
to the May 1990 union of North and South Yemen). In December 
Mubarak proposed the creation of a new Arab alliance consisting 
of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, presumably as a replacement 
for the Arab Cooperation Council, and warned pro-Iraqi Sudan 
that Egypt would act if Iraqi weapons were transferred there. 

Whereas it supported the United States, Egypt's stance in the 
Persian Gulf crisis was a moderate one. It advocated the ouster 
of Iraq from Kuwait, but in early November 1990, Mubarak sent 
word to President Bush that sanctions should be given two to three 
more months to work before any military attack on Iraq. In a speech 
to the joint session of the People's Assembly and the Consultative 
Council on January 24, 1991, Mubarak stated that he had made 
twenty- six unavailing appeals to Saddam Husayn and had even- 
tually sent a force of 35,000 Egyptians to Saudi Arabia in confor- 
mity with the provisions of the Arab Mutual Defense Pact signed 
in 1950. Also in January, Mubarak sent Minister of Foreign Af- 
fairs Ismat Abdul Majid to Washington with a message indicat- 
ing, among other points, that if Iraq withdrew from Kuwait, Egypt 
considered Saddam Husayn' s remaining in power acceptable. 

As the war was ending, Mubarak again addressed a joint legis- 
lative session on March 3, 1991. He stated that Egypt was pre- 
pared to help rebuild Iraq as well as Kuwait with Egyptian labor 
and set forth a nine-point program, which he described as a "pan- 
Arab appeal. " The points included that there should be no venge- 
ance, that border disputes must be settled, that the Middle East 
must be freed of weapons of mass destruction, that the Arab-Israeli 
dispute must be settled, and that the basis for participation of all 
Arab citizens in democracy should be expanded. As time passed, 
however, Egypt became disillusioned by the responses of Kuwait, 
particularly, and, to a lesser extent, Saudi Arabia to Egypt's offers 
of manpower assistance. Egypt had agreed to serve with Syria in 
a Persian Gulf peacekeeping force proposed by the six-nation Gulf 
Cooperation Council, in accordance with the Damascus Declara- 
tion of March 6. Kuwait had made public promises to grant con- 
tracts to Egyptian firms and to hire Egyptian workers for its 


reconstruction efforts. It granted minimal awards to Egypt, 
however, and implied that Egyptians were fit only for menial labor. 
In addition, Kuwait indicated its preference for United States rather 
than Egyptian troops on its territory. 

Informed observers believed that Mubarak's announcement on 
April 8 that Egyptian forces would be withdrawn from the Persian 
Gulf was the cumulative result of these factors. The United States 
was shocked by Mubarak's decision and expressed its displeasure 
to Kuwait, indicating that only a minimal number of United States 
forces would remain in the area. As a result of United States pres- 
sure, Kuwait modified its position, and Egypt agreed in principle 
with United States secretary of defense Richard B. Cheney to send 
peacekeeping and border patrol troops to Kuwait. In mid-June the 
number of such troops remained to be worked out, but Mubarak's 
visit to Kuwait on July 18 indicated that relations between the two 
countries had improved. Other evidence of improved Egyptian re- 
lations with all Arab states was the unanimous election of Ismat 
Abdul Majid as secretary general of the Arab League in May. 

In the broader international sphere, Secretary of State Baker paid 
several post-Persian Gulf war visits to Cairo in the first half of 1991 , 
and Egypt was among the first Arab states to indicate its accep- 
tance of the Baker plan for a twofold approach to Middle East talks. 
The plan proposed that the United States and the Soviet Union 
jointly sponsor an opening session to be followed by direct negoti- 
ations between Israel and its Arab neighbors. On July 19, in a fur- 
ther step toward easing Middle East tensions, Mubarak proposed 
that Israel suspend the expansion of settlements in the occupied 
territories, in return for which the Arab states would end their eco- 
nomic boycott of Israel. Saudi Arabia and Jordan soon afterward 
indicated agreement with this proposal. 

Mubarak's domestic policy has been summarized as one of limit- 
ed liberalization, limited Islamization, and limited repression. These 
three factors all impinged on national security, a sphere in which 
Mubarak emphasized the maintenance of domestic stability, prob- 
ably a more important concern after the 1979 peace treaty with 
Israel than external threats. Egypt had a professional officer corps 
but a shortage of well trained enlisted personnel, especially non- 
commissioned officers, because of the attraction of higher paying 
civilian employment. Conscripts, based on the 1955 National Mili- 
tary Service Law, served for three years in one of the four ser- 
vices: army, navy, air force, or Air Defense Force, or they might 
be assigned to the police, prison guard service, or the military eco- 
nomic service. Until the Persian Gulf crisis of late 1990-91, the 


last war in which the armed services had seen action was the Oc- 
tober 1973 War. 

Egypt's defense spending was proportionately less than that of 
most Middle Eastern countries, but it represented 11 percent of 
gross national product (GNP — see Glossary) in 1987, or 32 per- 
cent of total government spending. In addition, Egypt benefited 
to a substantial degree from foreign military assistance. From 1955 
to 1975, this aid came primarily from the Soviet Union, with the 
result that Egypt had much Soviet military equipment in its in- 
ventory. From the signing of the peace treaty with Israel in 1979 
onward, the United States became Egypt's main military suppli- 
er, and the orientation of the armed forces became Western. Egypt's 
defense industry was the largest in the Arab world, producing arms, 
ammunition, artillery, and other military goods and assembling 
aircraft and armored vehicles for domestic use or export to Third 
World countries. 

With reference to internal security, the military were called out 
to join the police and the paramilitary police, the Central Security 
Forces (CSF), to suppress dissent when occasions warranted. This 
occurred during the 1977 food riots and the 1986 riots by the CSF. 
The police and intelligence services kept a watchful eye on right- 
wing Islamic groups, of which the Muslim Brotherhood was the 
chief, but Al Jihad was one of the most extreme — the organiza- 
tion's leader in Bani Suwayf in Upper Egypt was killed in a riot 
in late June 1991 . Left-wing factions were kept under surveillance 
as well, although the Communist Party of Egypt had been offi- 
cially banned since the early 1950s. Former Minister of Interior 
General Zaki Badr was responsible for the arrest of as many as 
20,000 persons charged with being dissidents during his four-year 
tenure; this figure included arrests in April 1989 of 1,500 persons 
accused of acts of Muslim extremism against Christian churches 
and businesses. Moreover, human rights organizations brought ac- 
cusations of torture on a regular basis against Egypt's internal secu- 
rity forces. Mubarak relieved Badr of his post in early January 1990; 
his successor, General Muhammad Abd al Halim Musa, stated 
that he considered the opposition to be ''part of the mechanism" 
of government. This statement encouraged popular hope for a more 
liberal internal security policy. Restrictions remained, however, 
and in September 1990, a group of Muslim activists and leftists 
was barred by the government from traveling to Iraq and Saudi 
Arabia on a peace mission. 

Part of Egypt's internal security concern related to its neighbor 
to the south, Sudan, which staged a massive pro-Iraqi demonstra- 
tion in Khartoum on January 19, just after the Persian Gulf war 


began. Egyptian security forces had been keeping a watchful eye 
on a number of Sudanese activists, and 500 of them were rounded 
up and deported on January 23 as representing a threat to Egyp- 
tian security. Although public demonstrations have been outlawed 
in Egypt, about 2,000 Cairo University students staged an antiwar 
demonstration on February 24, which Cairo police broke up with 
tear gas. No serious injuries were reported. 

The government's continuing concern over national security was 
but one aspect of the problems posed by the Persian Gulf war. The 
war had far-reaching political, economic, and diplomatic implica- 
tions for Egypt's future. In mid-July 1991, it remained to be seen 
whether Egypt would continue to evolve democratic political in- 
stitutions, to reform governmental administrative structures, and 
to promote economic reforms designed to further agricultural and 
industrial development. Also in question was whether Egypt could 
resume the position of Arab leadership it had gained under Nasser, 
now that Syria's Hafiz al Assad was reasserting his regional leader- 
ship role, and whether the realignment resulting from the war would 
work in Egypt's favor. 

July 23, 1991 Helen Chapin Metz 


Chapter 1. Historical Setting 

Sphinx and pyramids at Giza (Al Jizah) 

THE ROOTS OF EGYPTIAN civilization go back more than 
6,000 years to the beginning of settled life along the banks of the 
Nile River. The country has an unusual geographical and cultural 
unity that has given the Egyptian people a strong sense of identity 
and a pride in their heritage as descendants of humankind's earli- 
est civilized community. 

Within the long sweep of Egyptian history, certain events or 
epochs have been crucial to the development of Egyptian society 
and culture. One of these was the unification of Upper Egypt and 
Lower Egypt sometime in the third millennium B.C. The ancient 
Egyptians regarded this event as the most important in their his- 
tory, comparable to the "First Time," or the creation of the 
universe. With the unification of the "Two Lands" by the legend- 
ary, if not mythical, King Menes, the glorious Pharaonic Age began. 
Power was centralized in the hands of a god-king, and, thus, Egypt 
became the first organized society. 

The ancient Egyptians were the first people of antiquity to be- 
lieve in life after death. They were the first to build in stone and 
to fashion the arch in stone and brick. Even before the unification 
of the Two Lands, the Egyptians had developed a plow and a sys- 
tem of writing. They were accomplished sailors and shipbuilders. 
They learned to chart the heavens in order to predict the Nile flood. 
Their physicians prescribed healing remedies and performed sur- 
gical operations. They sculpted in stone and decorated the walls 
of their tombs with naturalistic murals in vibrant colors. The legacy 
of ancient Egypt is written in stone across the face of the country 
from the pyramids of Upper Egypt to the rock tombs in the Valley 
of the Kings to the Old Kingdom temples of Luxor and Karnak 
to the Ptolemaic temples of Edfu and Dendera and to the Roman 
temple to Isis on Philae Island. 

The Arab conquest of 641 by the military commander Amr ibn 
al As was perhaps the next most important event in Egyptian his- 
tory because it resulted in the Islamization and Arabization of the 
country, which endure to this day. Even those who clung to the 
Coptic religion, a substantial minority of the population in 1990, 
were Arabized; that is, they adopted the Arabic language and were 
assimilated into Arab culture. 

Although Egypt was formally under Arab rule, beginning in the 
ninth century hereditary autonomous dynasties arose that allowed 
local rulers to maintain a great deal of control over the country's 


Egypt: A Country Study 

destiny. During this period, Cairo was established as the capital 
of the country and became a center of religion, learning, art, and 
architecture. In 1260 the Egyptian ruler, Qutuz, and his forces 
stopped the Mongol advance across the Arab world at the battle 
of Ayn Jalut in Palestine. Because of this victory, Islamic civiliza- 
tion could continue to flourish when Baghdad, the capital of the 
Abbasid caliphate, fell to the Mongols. Qutuz's successor, Bay- 
bars I, inaugurated the reign of the Mamluks, a dynasty of slave- 
soldiers of Turkish and Circassian origin that lasted for almost three 

In 1517 Egypt was conquered by Sultan Selim I and absorbed 
into the Ottoman Empire. Since the Turks were Muslims, however, 
and the sultans regarded themselves as the preservers of Sunni (see 
Glossary) Islam, this period saw institutional continuity, particu- 
larly in religion, education, and the religious law courts. In addi- 
tion, after only a century of Ottoman rule, the Mamluk system 
reasserted itself, and Ottoman governors became at times virtual 
prisoners in the citadel, the ancient seat of Egypt's rulers. 

The modern history of Egypt is marked by Egyptian attempts 
to achieve political independence, first from the Ottoman Empire 
and then from the British. In the first half of the nineteenth centu- 
ry, Muhammad Ali, an Albanian and the Ottoman viceroy in 
Egypt, attempted to create an Egyptian empire that extended to 
Syria and to remove Egypt from Ottoman control. Ultimately, he 
was unsuccessful, and true independence from foreign powers would 
not be achieved until midway through the next century. 

Foreign, including British, investment in Egypt and Britain's 
need to maintain control over the Suez Canal resulted in the Brit- 
ish occupation of Egypt in 1882. Although Egypt was granted nomi- 
nal independence in 1922, Britain remained the real power in the 
country. Genuine political independence was finally achieved be- 
tween the 1952 Revolution and the 1956 War. In 1952 the Free 
Officers, led by Lieutenant Colonel Gamal Abdul Nasser, took con- 
trol of the government and removed King Faruk from power. In 
1956 Nasser, as Egyptian president, announced the nationaliza- 
tion of the Suez Canal, an action that resulted in the tripartite in- 
vasion by Britain, France, and Israel. Ultimately, however, Egypt 
prevailed, and the last British troops were withdrawn from the coun- 
try by the end of the year. 

No history of Egypt would be complete without mentioning the 
Arab-Israeli conflict, which has cost Egypt so much in lives, terri- 
tory, and property. Armed conflict between Egypt and Israel end- 
ed in 1979 when the two countries signed the Camp David Accords. 
The accords, however, constituted a separate peace between Egypt 


Historical Setting 

and Israel and did not lead to a comprehensive settiement that would 
have satisfied Palestinian demands for a homeland or brought about 
peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Thus, Egypt remained 
embroiled in the conflict on the diplomatic level and continued to 
press for an international conference to achieve a comprehensive 

Ancient Egypt 

The Predynastic Period and the First and Second Dynasties, 
6000-2686 B.C. 

During this period, when people first began to settle along the 
banks of the Nile (Nahr an Nil) and to evolve from hunters and 
gatherers to settled, subsistence agriculturalists, Egypt developed 
the written language, religion, and institutions that made it the 
world's first organized society. Through pharaonic (see Glossary) 
Egypt, Africa claims to be the cradle of one of the earliest and most 
spectacular civilizations of antiquity (see fig. 2). 

One of the unique features of ancient Egyptian civilization was 
the bond between the Nile and the Egyptian people and their in- 
stitutions. The Nile caused the great productivity of the soil, for 
it annually brought a copious deposit of rich silt from the monsoon- 
swept tableland of Ethiopia. Each July, the level of the Nile began 
to rise, and by the end of August, the flood reached its full height. 
At the end of October, the flood began to recede, leaving behind 
a fairly uniform deposit of silt as well as lagoons and streams that 
became natural reservoirs for fish. By April, the Nile was at its 
lowest level. Vegetation started to diminish, seasonal pools dried 
out, and game began to move south. Then in July, the Nile would 
rise again, and the cycle was repeated. 

Because of the fall and rise of the river, one can understand why 
the Egyptians were the first people to believe in life after death. 
The rise and fall of the flood waters meant that the "death" of 
the land would be followed each year by the "rebirth" of the crops. 
Thus, rebirth was seen as a natural sequence to death. Like the 
sun, which "died" when it sank on the western horizon and was 
"reborn" in the eastern sky on the following morning, humans 
would also rise and live again. 

Sometime during the final Paleolithic period and the Neolithic 
era, a revolution occurred in food production. Meat ceased to be 
the chief article of diet and was replaced by plants such as wheat 
and barley grown extensively as crops and not gathered at ran- 
dom in the wild. The relatively egalitarian tribal structure of the 
Nile Valley broke down because of the need to manage and control 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Sais (Sa al Hajar) 
Capital ca. 730-400 B.C. 


Giza (Al Jizah) i 

Saqqarah First Dynasty tombs, - 

ca. 3100-2900 B.C., 
site of oldest free-standing stone 
structure in the world 






Pyramid of Old Kingdom 

Pyramid of Middle Kingdom 




( ) 

Modern name or place 


Middle Kingdom's southern 
boundary to ca. 1800 B.C. 

Figure 2. Ancient Egypt 

Historical Setting 

the new agricultural economy and the surplus it generated. Long- 
distance trade within Egypt, a high degree of craft specialization, 
and sustained contacts with southwest Asia encouraged the develop- 
ment of towns and a hierarchical structure with power residing in 
a headman who was believed to be able to control the Nile flood. 
The headman's power rested on his reputation as a "rainmaker 
king." The towns became trading centers, political centers, and 
cult centers. Egyptologists disagree as to when these small, autono- 
mous communities were unified into the separate kingdoms of Low- 
er Egypt and Upper Egypt and as to when the two kingdoms were 
united under one king. 

Nevertheless, the most important political event in ancient Egyp- 
tian history was the unification of the two lands: the Black Land 
of the Delta, so-called because of the darkness of its rich soil, and 
the Red Land of Upper Egypt, the sun-baked land of the desert. 
The rulers of Lower Egypt wore the red crown and had the bee 
as their symbol. The leaders of Upper Egypt wore the white crown 
and took the sedge as their emblem. After the unification of the 
two kingdoms, the pharaoh wore the double crown symbolizing 
the unity of the two lands. 

The chief god of the Delta was Horus, and that of Upper Egypt 
was Seth. The unification of the two kingdoms resulted in com- 
bining the two myths concerning the gods. Horus was the son of 
Osiris and Isis and avenged the evil Seth's slaying of his father by 
killing Seth, thus showing the triumph of good over evil. Horus 
took over his father's throne and was regarded as the ancestor of 
the pharaohs. After unification, each pharaoh took a Horus name 
that indicated that he was the reincarnation of Horus. 

According to tradition, King Menes of Upper Egypt united the 
two kingdoms and established his capital at Memphis, then known 
as the "White Walls." Some scholars believe Menes was the Hor- 
us King Narmer, whereas others prefer to regard him as a purely 
legendary figure. 

With the emergence of a strong, centralized government under 
a god-king, the country's nascent economic and political institu- 
tions became subject to royal authority. The central government, 
either directly or through major officials, became the employer of 
soldiers, retainers, bureaucrats, and artisans whose goods and ser- 
vices benefited the upper classes and the state gods. In the course 
of the Early Dynastic Period, artisans and civil servants working 
for the central government fashioned the highly sophisticated tra- 
ditions of art and learning that thereafter constituted the basic pat- 
tern of pharaonic civilization. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

The Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom, and Second Intermediate 
Period, 2686-1552 B.C. 

Historians have given the name "kingdom" to those periods in 
Egyptian history when the central government was strong, the coun- 
try was unified, and there was an orderly succession of pharaohs. 
At times, however, central authority broke down, competing centers 
of power emerged, and the country was plunged into civil war or 
was occupied by foreigners. These periods are known as "inter- 
mediate periods." The Old Kingdom and the Middle Kingdom 
together represent an important single phase in Egyptian political 
and cultural development. The Third Dynasty reached a level of 
competence that marked a plateau of achievement for ancient Egypt. 
After five centuries and following the end of the Sixth Dynasty (ca. 
2181 B.C.), the system faltered, and a century and a half of civil 
war, the First Intermediate Period, ensued. The reestablishment 
of a powerful central government during the Twelfth Dynasty, 
however, reinstituted the patterns of the Old Kingdom. Thus, the 
Old Kingdom and the Middle Kingdom may be considered 

Divine kingship was the most striking feature of Egypt in these 
periods. The political and economic system of Egypt developed 
around the concept of a god incarnate who was believed through 
his magical powers to control the Nile flood for the benefit of the 
nation. In the form of great religious complexes centered on the 
pyramid tombs, the cult of the pharaoh, the god-king, was given 
monumental expression of a grandeur unsurpassed in the ancient 
Near East. 

Central to the Egyptian view of kingship was the concept of maat, 
loosely translated as justice and truth but meaning more than le- 
gal fairness and factual accuracy. It referred to the ideal state of 
the universe and was personified as the goddess Maat. The king 
was responsible for its appearance, an obligation that acted as a 
constraint on the arbitrary exercise of power. 

The pharaoh ruled by divine decree. In the early years, his sons 
and other close relatives acted as his principal advisers and aides. 
By the Fourth Dynasty, there was a grand vizier or chief minister, 
who was at first a prince of royal blood and headed every govern- 
ment department. The country was divided into norms or districts 
administered by nomarchs or governors. At first, the nomarchs were 
royal officials who moved from post to post and had no pretense 
to independence or local ties. The post of nomarch eventually be- 
came hereditary, however, and nomarchs passed their offices to their 
sons. Hereditary offices and the possession of property turned these 


Historical Setting 

officials into a landed gentry. Concurrently, kings began reward- 
ing their courtiers with gifts of tax-exempt land. From the middle 
of the Fifth Dynasty can be traced the beginnings of a feudal state 
with an increase in the power of these provincial lords, particular- 
ly in Upper Egypt. 

The Old Kingdom ended when the central administration col- 
lapsed in the late Sixth Dynasty. This collapse seems to have resulted 
at least in part from climatic conditions that caused a period of 
low Nile waters and great famine. The kings would have been dis- 
credited by the famine, because pharaonic power rested in part 
on the belief that the king controlled the Nile flood. In the absence 
of central authority, the hereditary landowners took control and 
assumed responsibility for maintaining order in their own areas. 
The manors of their estates turned into miniature courts, and Egypt 
splintered into a number of feudal states. This period of decen- 
tralized rule and confusion lasted from the Seventh through the 
Eleventh dynasties. 

The kings of the Twelfth Dynasty restored central government 
control and a single strong kingship in the period known as the 
Middle Kingdom. The Middle Kingdom ended with the conquest 
of Egypt by the Hyksos, the so-called Shepherd Kings. The Hyk- 
sos were Semitic nomads who broke into the Delta from the north- 
east and ruled Egypt from Avaris in the eastern Delta. 

Pyramid Building in the Old and Middle Kingdoms 

With the Third Dynasty, Egypt entered into the five centuries 
of high culture known as the Pyramid Age. The age is associated 
with Chancellor Imhotep, the adviser, administrator, and architect 
of Pharaoh Djoser. He built the pharaoh's funerary complex, in- 
cluding his tomb, the Step Pyramid, at Saqqarah. Imhotep is famed 
as the inventor of building in dressed stone. His architectural genius 
lay in his use of durable, fine-quality limestone to imitate the brick, 
wood, and reed structures that have since disappeared. 

The first true pyramid was built by Snoferu, the first king of 
the Fourth Dynasty. His son and successor, Kheops, built the Great 
Pyramid at Giza (Al Jizah); this, with its two companions on the 
same site, was considered one of the wonders of the ancient world. 
It contained well over 2 million blocks of limestone, some weigh- 
ing fifteen tons apiece. The casing stones of the Great Pyramid 
were stripped off to build medieval Cairo (Al Qahirah). 

The building and equipping of funerary monuments represent- 
ed the single largest industry through the Old Kingdom and, after 
a break, the Middle Kingdom as well. The channeling of so much 
of the country's resources into building and equipping funerary 


Egypt: A Country Study 

monuments may seem unproductive by modern standards, but 
pyramid building seems to have been essential for the growth of 
pharaonic civilization. 

As Egyptologists have pointed out, in ancient societies innova- 
tions in technology arose not so much from deliberate research as 
from the consequences of developing lavish court projects. Equal- 
ly important, the continued consumption of so great a quantity 
of wealth and of the products of artisanship sustained the machinery 
that produced them by creating fresh demand as reign succeeded 

The pyramids of the pharaohs, the tombs of the elite, and the 
burial practices of the poorer classes are related to ancient Egyp- 
tian religious beliefs, particularly belief in the afterlife. The Egyp- 
tian belief that life would continue after death in a form similar 
to that experienced on earth was an important element in the de- 
velopment of art and architecture that was not present in other cul- 
tures. Thus, in Egypt, a dwelling place was provided for the dead 
in the form of a pyramid or a rock tomb. Life was magically recreat- 
ed in pictures on the walls of the tombs, and a substitute in stone 
was provided for the perishable body of the deceased. 

The New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period, 1552-664 B.C. 

Around the year 1600 B.C., a semi-autonomous Theban dynasty 
under the suzerainty of the Hyksos became determined to drive 
the Shepherd Kings out of the country and extend its own power. 
The country was liberated from the Hyksos and unified by Ah- 
mose (ruled 1570-1546 B.C.), the son of the last ruler of the Seven- 
teenth Dynasty. He was honored by subsequent generations as the 
founder of a new line, the Eighteenth Dynasty, and as the initia- 
tor of a glorious chapter in Egyptian history. 

During the New Kingdom, Egypt reached the peak of its pow- 
er, wealth, and territory. The government was reorganized into 
a military state with an administration centralized in the hands of 
the pharaoh and his chief minister. Through the intensive mili- 
tary campaigns of Pharaoh Thutmose III (1490-1436 B.C.), Pales- 
tine, Syria, and the northern Euphrates area in Mesopotamia were 
brought within the New Kingdom. This territorial expansion in- 
volved Egypt in a complicated system of diplomacy, alliances, 
and treaties. After Thutmose III established the empire, succeed- 
ing pharaohs frequently engaged in warfare to defend the state 
against the pressures of Libyans from the west, Nubians and Ethio- 
pians (Kushites) from the south, Hittites from the east, and 
Philistines (sea people) from the Aegean-Mediterranean region of 
the north. 


Historical Setting 

Toward the end of the Twentieth Dynasty, Egyptian power 
declined at home and abroad. Egypt was once more separated into 
its natural divisions of Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt. The pharaoh 
now ruled from his residence-city in the north, and Memphis re- 
mained the hallowed capital where the pharaoh was crowned and 
his jubilees celebrated. Upper Egypt was governed from Thebes. 

During the Twenty- first Dynasty, the pharaohs ruled from Ta- 
nis (San al Hajar al Qibliyah), while a virtually autonomous the- 
ocracy controlled Thebes. Egyptian control in Nubia and Ethiopia 
vanished. The pharaohs of the Twenty-second and Twenty-third 
dynasties were mostly Libyans. Those of the brief Twenty-fourth 
Dynasty were Egyptians of the Nile Delta, and those of the Twenty- 
fifth were Nubians and Ethiopians. This dynasty's ventures into 
Palestine brought about an Assyrian intervention, resulting in the 
rejection of the Ethiopians and the reestablishment by the Assyri- 
ans of Egyptian rulers at Sais (Sa al Hajar), about eighty kilome- 
ters southeast of Alexandria (Al Iskandariyah) on the Rosetta branch 
of the Nile. 

Art and Architecture in the New Kingdom 

As historian Cyril Aldred has said, the civilization of the New 
Kingdom seems the most golden of all the epochs of Egyptian his- 
tory, perhaps because so much of its wealth remains. The rich store 
of treasures from the tomb of Tutankhamen (ruled 1347-1337 B.C.) 
gives us a glimpse of the dazzling court art of the period and the 
skills of the artisans of the day. 

One of the innovations of the period was the construction of rock 
tombs for the pharaohs and the elite. Around 1500 B.C., Pharaoh 
Amenophis I abandoned the pyramid in favor of a rock-hewn tomb 
in the crags of western Thebes (present-day Luxor). His example 
was followed by his successors, who for the next four centuries cut 
their tombs in the Valley of the Kings and built their mortuary 
temples on the plain below. Other wadis or river valleys were sub- 
sequently used for the tombs of queens and princes. 

Another New Kingdom innovation was temple building, which 
began with Queen Hatshepsut, who as the heiress queen seized 
power in default of male claimants to the throne. She was particu- 
larly devoted to the worship of the god Amun, whose cult was cen- 
tered at Thebes. She built a splendid temple dedicated to him and 
to her own funerary cult at Dayr al Bahri in western Thebes. 

One of the greatest temples still standing is that of Pharaoh 
Amenophis III at Thebes. With Amenophis III, statuary on an enor- 
mous scale makes its appearance. The most notable is the pair of 


Egypt: A Country Study 

colossi, the so-called Colossi of Memnon, which still dominate the 
Theban plain before the vanished portal of his funerary temple. 

Ramesses II was the most vigorous builder to wear the double 
crown of Egypt. Nearly half the temples remaining in Egypt date 
from his reign. Some of his constructions include his mortuary tem- 
ple at Thebes, popularly known as the Ramesseum; the huge 
hypostyle hall at Karnak, the rock-hewn temple at Abu Simbel (Abu 
Sunbul); and his new capital city of Pi Ramesses. 

The Cult of the Sun God and Akhenaten's Monotheism 

During the New Kingdom, the cult of the sun god Ra became 
increasingly important until it evolved into the uncompromising 
monotheism of Pharaoh Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV, 1364-1347 
B.C.). According to the cult, Ra created himself from a primeval 
mound in the shape of a pyramid and then created all other gods. 
Thus, Ra was not only the sun god, he was also the universe, hav- 
ing created himself from himself. Ra was invoked as Aten or the 
Great Disc that illuminated the world of the living and the dead. 

The effect of these doctrines can be seen in the sun worship of 
Pharaoh Akhenaten, who became an uncompromising monotheist. 
Aldred has speculated that monotheism was Akhenaten's own idea, 
the result of regarding Aten as a self-created heavenly king whose 
son, the pharaoh, was also unique. Akhenaten made Aten the su- 
preme state god, symbolized as a rayed disk with each sunbeam 
ending in a ministering hand. Other gods were abolished, their 
images smashed, their names excised, their temples abandoned, 
and their revenues impounded. The plural word for god was sup- 

Sometime in the fifth or sixth year of his reign, Akhenaten moved 
his capital to a new city called Akhetaten (present-day Tall al 
Amarinah, also seen as Tell al Amarna). At that time, the pharaoh, 
previously known as Amenhotep IV, adopted the name Akhenat- 
en. His wife, Queen Nefertiti, shared his beliefs. 

Akhenaten's religious ideas did not survive his death. His ideas 
were abandoned in part because of the economic collapse that en- 
sued at the end of his reign. To restore the morale of the nation, 
Akhenaten's successor, Tutankhamen, appeased the offended gods 
whose resentment would have blighted all human enterprise. Tem- 
ples were cleaned and repaired, new images made, priests appoint- 
ed, and endowments restored. Akhenaten's new city was abandoned 
to the desert sands. 

The Late Period, 664-323 B.C. 

The Late Period includes the last periods during which ancient 


Historical Setting 

Egypt functioned as an independent political entity. During these 
years, Egyptian culture was under pressure from major civiliza- 
tions of the eastern Mediterranean and the Near East. The socioeco- 
nomic system, however, had a vigor, efficiency, and flexibility that 
ensured the success of the nation during these years of triumph 
and disaster. 

Throughout the Late Period, Egypt made a largely successful 
effort to maintain an effectively centralized state, which, except 
for the two periods of Persian occupation (Twenty-seventh and 
Thirty-first dynasties), was based on earlier indigenous models. 
Late Period Egypt, however, displayed certain destabilizing fea- 
tures, such as the emergence of regionally based power centers. 
These contributed to the revolts against the Persian occupation but 
also to the recurrent internal crises of the Twenty-eighth, Twenty- 
ninth, and Thirtieth dynasties. 

The Twenty-sixth Dynasty was founded by Psammethichus I, 
who made Egypt a powerful and united kingdom. This dynasty, 
which ruled from 664 to 525 B.C., represented the last great age 
of pharaonic civilization. The dynasty ended when a Persian in- 
vasion force under Cambyses, the son of Cyrus the Great, dethroned 
the last pharaoh. 

Cambyses established himself as pharaoh and appears to have 
made some attempts to identify his regime with the Egyptian reli- 
gious hierarchy. Egypt became a Persian province serving chiefly 
as a source of revenue for the far-flung Persian (Achaemenid) Em- 
pire. From Cambyses to Darius II in the years 525 to 404 B.C., 
the Persian emperors are counted as the Twenty- seventh Dynasty. 

Periodic Egyptian revolts, usually aided by Greek military forces, 
were unsuccessful until 404 B.C., when Egypt regained an uneasy 
independence under the short-lived, native Twenty-eighth, Twenty- 
ninth, and Thirtieth dynasties. Independence was lost again in 343 
B.C., and Persian rule was oppressively reinstated and continued 
until 335 B.C., in what is sometimes called the Thirty-first Dy- 
nasty or second Persian occupation of Egypt. 

Ptolemaic, Roman, and Byzantine Egypt, 332 B.C.-A.D. 

The Alexandrian Conquest 

The Persian occupation of Egypt ended when Alexander the 
Great defeated the Persians at the Battle of Issus (near present- 
day Iskenderun in Turkey) in November 333 B.C. The Egyp- 
tians, who despised the monotheistic Persians and chafed under 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Persian rule, welcomed Alexander as a deliverer. In the autumn 
of 332 B.C., Alexander entered Memphis, where, like a true 
Hellene, he paid homage to the native gods and was apparently 
accepted without question as king of Egypt. Also like a true Hellene, 
he celebrated the occasion with competitive games and a drama 
and music festival at which some of the leading artists of Greece 
were present. From Memphis, Alexander marched down the 
western arm of the Nile and founded the city of Alexandria. Then 
he went to the oasis of Siwa (present-day Siwah) to consult the oracle 
at the Temple of Amun, the Egyptian god whom the Greeks iden- 
tified with their own Zeus. 

The Ptolemaic Period 

After Alexander's death of malarial fever in 323 B.C., the 
Macedonian commander in Egypt, Ptolemy, who was the son of 
Lagos, one of Alexander's seven bodyguards, managed to secure 
for himself the satrapy (provincial governorship) of Egypt. In 306 
B.C., Antigonus, citing the principle that the empire Alexander 
created should remain unified, took the royal title. In reaction, his 
rivals for power, Ptolemy of Egypt, Cassander of Macedonia, and 
Seleucus of Syria, countered by declaring themselves kings of their 
respective dominions. Thus came into existence the three great 
monarchies that were to dominate the Hellenistic world until, one 
by one, they were absorbed into the Roman Empire. 

The dynasty Ptolemy founded in Egypt was known as the line 
of Ptolemaic pharaohs and endured until the suicide of Cleopatra 
in 30 B.C., at which time direct Roman control was instituted. 
The early Ptolemies were hardheaded administrators and business 
people, anxious to make the state that they created stable, wealthy, 
and influential. The Ptolemies had their eyes directed outward to 
the eastern Mediterranean world in which they sought to play a 
part. Egypt was their basis of power, their granary, and the source 
of their wealth. 

Under the early Ptolemies, the culture was exclusively Greek. 
Greek was the language of the court, the army, and the adminis- 
tration. The Ptolemies founded the university, the museum, and 
the library at Alexandria and built the lighthouse at Pharos. A canal 
to the Red Sea was opened, and Greek sailors explored new trade 

Whereas many Egyptians adopted Greek speech, dress, and much 
of Greek culture, the Greeks also borrowed much from the Egyp- 
tians, particularly in religion. In this way, a mixed culture was 
formed along with a hybrid art that combined Egyptian themes with 
elements of Hellenistic culture. Examples of this are the grandiose 


Historical Setting 

temples built by the Ptolemies at Edfu (present-day Idfu) and Den- 
dera (present-day Dandarah). 

The last of the Ptolemies was Cleopatra, the wife of Julius Cae- 
sar and later Mark Antony. During her reign, Egypt again became 
a factor in Mediterranean politics. Cleopatra was a woman of genius 
and a worthy opponent of Rome. Her main preoccupations were 
to preserve the independence of Egypt, to extend its territory if 
possible, and to secure the throne for her children. After the ruinous 
defeat at Actium in 31 B.C., Cleopatra was unable to continue 
the fight against Rome. Rather than witness the incorporation of 
Egypt into the Roman Empire, she chose to die by the bite of the 
asp. The asp was considered the minister of the sun god whose 
bite conferred not only immortality but also divinity. 

Egypt under Rome and Byzantium, 30 B.C.-A.D. 640 

With the establishment of Roman rule by Emperor Augustus 
in 30 B.C. , more than six centuries of Roman and Byzantine con- 
trol began. Egypt again became the province of an empire, as it 
had been under the Persians and briefly under Alexander. As the 
principal source of the grain supply for Rome, it came under the 
direct control of the emperor in his capacity as supreme military 
chief, and a strong force was garrisoned there. Gradually, Latin 
replaced Greek as the language of higher administration. In 212 
Rome gave the Egyptians citizenship in the empire. 

The emperor ruled as successor to the Ptolemies with the title 
of "Pharaoh, Lord of the Two Lands," and the conventional di- 
vine attributes assigned to Egyptian kings were attributed to him. 
Rome was careful, however, to bring the native priesthood under 
its control, although guaranteeing traditional priestly rights and 

Augustus and his successors continued the tradition of building 
temples to the local gods on which the rulers and the gods were 
depicted in the Egyptian manner. The Romans completed the con- 
struction of an architectural jewel, the Temple of I sis on Philae 
Island (Jazirat Filah), which was begun under the Ptolemies. A 
new artistic development during this period was the painting of 
portraits on wood, an art that originated in the Fayyum region. 
These portraits were placed on the coffins of mummies. 

The general pattern of Roman Egypt included a strong, cen- 
tralized administration supported by a military force large enough 
to guarantee internal order and to provide security against maraud- 
ing nomads. There was an elaborate bureaucracy with an extend- 
ed system of registers and controls, and a social hierarchy based 
on caste and privilege with preferred treatment for the Hellenized 


Egypt: A Country Study 

population of the towns over the rural and native Egyptian popu- 
lation. The best land continued to form the royal domain. 

The empire that Rome established was wider, more enduring, 
and better administered than any the Mediterranean world had 
known. For centuries, it provided an ease of communication and 
a unity of culture throughout the empire that would not be seen 
again until modern times. In Western Europe, Rome founded a 
tradition of public order and municipal government that outlasted 
the empire itself. In the East, however, where Rome came into 
contact with older and more advanced civilizations, Roman rule 
was less successful. 

The story of Roman Egypt is a sad record of shortsighted ex- 
ploitation leading to economic and social decline. Like the Ptole- 
mies, Rome treated Egypt as a mere estate to be exploited for the 
benefit of the rulers. But however incompetently some of the later 
Ptolemies managed their estate, much of the wealth they derived 
from it remained in the country itself. Rome, however, was an ab- 
sentee landlord, and a large part of the grain delivered as rent by 
the royal tenants or as tax by the landowners as well as the numer- 
ous money-taxes were sent to Rome and represented a complete 
loss to Egypt. 

The history of Egypt in this period cannot be separated from 
the history of the Roman Empire. Thus, Egypt was affected by 
the spread of Christianity in the empire in the first century A.D. 
and by the decline of the empire during the third century A.D. 
Christianity arrived early in Egypt, and the new religion quickly 
spread from Alexandria into the hinterland, reaching Upper Egypt 
by the second century. According to some Christian traditions, St. 
Mark brought Christianity to Egypt in A.D. 37, and the church 
in Alexandria was founded in A.D. 40. The Egyptian Christians 
are called Copts, a word derived from the Greek word for the coun- 
try, Aegyptos. In the Coptic language, the Copts also called them- 
selves "people of Egypt." Thus the word Copt originally implied 
nationality rather than religion. 

In the third century A.D., the decay of the empire gradually 
affected the Roman administration of Egypt. Roman bureaucracy 
became overcentralized and poorly managed. The number of quali- 
fied applicants for administrative positions was sharply reduced by 
Roman civil war, pestilence, and conflict among claimants to im- 
perial power. 

A renaissance of imperial authority and effectiveness took place 
under Emperor Diocletian. During his reign (284-305), the parti- 
tion of the Roman Empire into eastern and western segments be- 
gan. Diocletian inaugurated drastic political and fiscal reforms and 


Historical Setting 

sought to simplify imperial administration. Under Diocletian, the 
administrative unity of Egypt was destroyed by transforming Egypt 
from one province into three. Seeing Christianity as a threat to 
Roman state religion and thus to the unity of the empire, Diocle- 
tian launched a violent persecution of Christians. 

The Egyptian church was particularly affected by the Roman 
persecutions, beginning with Septimius Severus's edict of 202 dis- 
solving the influential Christian School of Alexandria and forbid- 
ding future conversions to Christianity. In 303 Emperor Diocletian 
issued a decree ordering all churches demolished, all sacred books 
burned, and all Christians who were not officials made slaves. The 
decree was carried out for three years, a period known as the "Era 
of Martyrs." The lives of many Egyptian Christians were spared 
only because more workers were needed in the porphyry quarries 
and emerald mines that were worked by Egyptian Christians as 
"convict labor." 

Emperor Constantine I (324-337) ruled both the eastern and 
western parts of the empire. In 330 he established his capital at 
Byzantium, which he renamed Constantinople (present-day Istan- 
bul). Egypt was governed from Constantinople as part of the Byzan- 
tine Empire. In 312 Constantine established Christianity as the 
official religion of the empire, and his Edict of Milan of 313 estab- 
lished freedom of worship. 

By the middle of the fourth century, Egypt was largely a Chris- 
tian country. In 324 the ecumenical Council of Nicea established 
the patriarchate of Alexandria as second only to that of Rome; its 
jurisdiction extended over Egypt and Libya. The patriarchate had 
a profound influence on the early development of the Christian 
church because it helped to clarify belief and to formulate dogmas. 
In 333 the number of Egyptian bishops was estimated at nearly 100. 

After the fall of Rome, the Byzantine Empire became the center 
of both political and religious power. The political and religious 
conflict between the Copts of Egypt and the rulers of Byzantium 
began when the patriarchate of Constantinople began to rival that 
of Alexandria. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 initiated the great 
schism that separated the Egyptian Church from Catholic Christen- 
dom. The schism had momentous consequences for the future of 
Christianity in the East and for Byzantine power. Ostensibly, the 
council was called to decide on the nature of Christ. If Christ were 
both God and man, had he two natures? The Arians had already 
been declared heretics for denying or minimizing the divinity of 
Christ; the opposite was to ignore or minimize his humanity. Coptic 
Christians were Monophy sites who believed that after the incar- 
nation Christ had but one nature with dual aspects. The council, 


Egypt: A Country Study 

however, declared that Christ had two natures and that he was 
equally human and equally divine. The Coptic Church refused to 
accept the council's decree and rejected the bishop sent to Egypt. 
Henceforth, the Coptic Church was in schism from the Catholic 
Church as represented by the Byzantine Empire and the Byzan- 
tine Church. 

For nearly two centuries, Monophysitism in Egypt became the 
symbol of national and religious resistance to Byzantium's politi- 
cal and religious authority. The Egyptian Church was severely per- 
secuted by Byzantium. Churches were closed, and Coptic Christians 
were killed, tortured, and exiled in an effort to force the Egyptian 
Church to accept Byzantine orthodoxy. The Coptic Church con- 
tinued to appoint its own patriarchs, refusing to accept those chosen 
by Constantinople and attempting to depose them. The break with 
Catholicism in the fifth century converted the Coptic Church to 
a national church with deeply rooted traditions that have remained 
unchanged to this day. 

By the seventh century, the religious persecutions and the grow- 
ing pressure of taxation had engendered great hatred of the Byzan- 
tines. As a result, the Egyptians offered little resistance to the 
conquering armies of Islam. 

Medieval Egypt 

The Arab Conquest, 639-41 

Perhaps the most important event to occur in Egypt since the 
unification of the Two Lands by King Menes was the Arab con- 
quest of Egypt. The conquest of the country by the armies of Is- 
lam under the command of the Muslim hero, Amr ibn al As, 
transformed Egypt from a predominantly Christian country to a 
Muslim country in which the Arabic language and culture were 
adopted even by those who clung to their Christian or Jewish faiths. 

The conquest of Egypt was part of the Arab/Islamic expansion 
that began when the Prophet Muhammad died and Arab tribes 
began to move out of the Arabian Peninsula into Iraq and Syria. 
Amr ibn al As, who led the Arab army into Egypt, was made a 
military commander by the Prophet himself. 

Amr crossed into Egypt on December 12, 639, at Al Arish with 
an army of about 4,000 men on horseback, armed with lances, 
swords, and bows. The army's objective was the fortress of Baby- 
lon (Bab al Yun) opposite the island of Rawdah in the Nile at the 
apex of the Delta. The fortress was the key to the conquest of Egypt 
because an advance up the Delta to Alexandria could not be risked 
until the fortress was taken. 



Egypt: A Country Study 

In June 640, reinforcements for the Arab army arrived, increas- 
ing Amr's forces to between 8,000 and 12,000 men. In July the 
Arab and Byzantine armies met on the plains of Heliopolis. 
Although the Byzantine army was routed, the results were in- 
conclusive because the Byzantine troops fled to Babylon. Final- 
ly, after a six-month siege, the fortress fell to the Arabs on April 9, 

The Arab army then marched to Alexandria, which was not pre- 
pared to resist despite its well fortified condition. Consequently, 
the governor of Alexandria agreed to surrender, and a treaty was 
signed in November 641 . The following year, the Byzantines broke 
the treaty and attempted unsuccessfully to retake the city. 

Muslim conquerors habitually gave the people they defeated three 
alternatives: converting to Islam, retaining their religion with free- 
dom of worship in return for the payment of the poll tax, or war. 
In surrendering to the Arab armies, the Byzantines agreed to the 
second option. The Arab conquerors treated the Egyptian Copts 
well. During the battle for Egypt, the Copts had either remained 
neutral or had actively supported the Arabs. After the surrender, 
the Coptic patriarch was reinstated, exiled bishops were called 
home, and churches that had been forcibly turned over to the Byzan- 
tines were returned to the Copts. Amr allowed Copts who held office 
to retain their positions and appointed Copts to other offices. 

Amr moved the capital south to a new city called Al Fustat 
(present-day Old Cairo). The mosque he built there bears his name 
and still stands, although it has been much rebuilt. 

For two centuries after the conquest, Egypt was a province ruled 
by a line of governors appointed by the caliphs in the east. Egypt 
provided abundant grain and tax revenue. In time most of the peo- 
ple accepted the Muslim faith, and the Arabic language became 
the language of government, culture, and commerce. The Arabi- 
zation of the country was aided by the continued settiement of Arab 
tribes in Egypt. 

From the time of the conquest onward, Egypt's history was in- 
tertwined with the history of the Arab world. Thus, in the eighth 
century, Egypt felt the effects of the Arab civil war that resulted 
in the defeat of the Umayyad Dynasty, the establishment of the 
Abbasid caliphate, and the transfer of the capital of the empire from 
Damascus to Baghdad. For Egypt, the transfer of the capital far- 
ther east meant a weakening of control by the central government. 
When the Abbasid caliphate began to decline in the ninth centu- 
ry, local autonomous dynasties arose to control the political, eco- 
nomic, social, and cultural life of the country. 


Historical Setting 

The Tulinids, Ikhshidids, Fatimids, and Ayyubids, 868-1260 

A new era began in Egypt with the arrival in Al Fustat in 868 
of Ahmad ibn Tulun as governor on behalf of his stepfather, Bayak- 
bah, a chamberlain in Baghdad to whom Caliph Al Mutazz had 
granted Egypt as a fief. Ahmad ibn Tulun inaugurated the auton- 
omy of Egypt and, with the succession of his son, Khumarawayh, 
to power, established the principle of locally based hereditary rule. 
Autonomy greatly benefited Egypt because the local dynasty halt- 
ed or reduced the drain of revenue from the country to Baghdad. 
The Tulinid state ended in 905 when imperial troops entered Al 
Fustat. For the next thirty years, Egypt was again under the direct 
control of the central government in Baghdad. 

The next autonomous dynasty in Egypt, the Ikhshidid, was 
founded by Muhammad ibn Tughj, who arrived as governor in 
935. The dynasty's name comes from the title of Ikhshid given to 
Tughj by the caliph. This dynasty ruled Egypt until the Fatimid 
conquest of 969. 

The Tulinids and the Ikhshidids brought Egypt peace and 
prosperity by pursuing wise agrarian policies that increased yields, 
by eliminating tax abuses, and by reforming the administration. 
Neither the Tulinids nor the Ikhshidids sought to withdraw Egypt 
from the Islamic empire headed by the caliph in Baghdad. Ahmad 
ibn Tulun and his successors were orthodox Sunni Muslims, loyal 
to the principle of Islamic unity. Their purpose was to carve out 
an autonomous and hereditary principality under loose caliphal 

The Fatimids, the next dynasty to rule Egypt, unlike the Tulinids 
and the Ikhshidids, wanted independence, not autonomy, from 
Baghdad. In addition, as heads of a great religious movement, 
Ismaili Shia Islam (see Glossary), they also challenged the Sunni 
Abbasids for the caliphate itself. The name of the dynasty is derived 
from Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad and the wife 
of Ali, the fourth caliph and the founder of Shia Islam. The leader 
of the movement, who first established the dynasty in Tunisia in 
906, claimed descent from Fatima. 

Under the Fatimids, Egypt became the center of a vast empire, 
which at its peak comprised North Africa, Sicily, Palestine, Syria, 
the Red Sea coast of Africa, Yemen, and the Hijaz in Arabia, in- 
cluding the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Control of the holy 
cities conferred enormous prestige on a Muslim sovereign and the 
power to use the yearly pilgrimage to Mecca to his advantage. Cairo 
was the seat of the Shia caliph, who was the head of a religion as 
well as the sovereign of an empire. The Fatimids established Al 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Azhar in Cairo as an intellectual center where scholars and teachers 
elaborated the doctrines of the Ismaili Shia faith. 

The first century of Fatimid rule represents a high point for 
medieval Egypt. The administration were reorganized and expand- 
ed. It functioned with admirable efficiency: tax farming was 
abolished, and strict probity and regularity in the assessment and 
collection of taxes were enforced. The revenues of Egypt were high 
and were then augmented by the tribute of subject provinces. 

This period was also an age of great commercial expansion and 
industrial production. The Fatimids fostered both agriculture and 
industry and developed an important export trade. Realizing the 
importance of trade both for the prosperity of Egypt and for the 
extension of Fatimid influence, the Fatimids developed a wide net- 
work of commercial relations, notably with Europe and India, two 
areas with which Egypt had previously had almost no contact. 

Egyptian ships sailed to Sicily and Spain. Egyptian fleets con- 
trolled the eastern Mediterranean, and the Fatimids established 
close relations with the Italian city states, particularly Amalfi and 
Pisa. The two great harbors of Alexandria in Egypt and Tripoli 
in present-day Lebanon became centers of world trade. In the east, 
the Fatimids gradually extended their sovereignty over the ports 
and outlets of the Red Sea for trade with India and Southeast Asia 
and tried to win influence on the shores of the Indian Ocean. In 
lands far beyond the reach of Fatimid arms, the Ismaili mission- 
ary and the Egyptian merchant went side by side. 

In the end, however, the Fatimid bid for world power failed. 
A weakened and shrunken empire was unable to resist the crusaders, 
who in July 1099 captured Jerusalem from the Fatimid garrison 
after a siege of five weeks. 

The crusaders were driven from Jerusalem and most of Pales- 
tine by the great Kurdish general Salah ad Din ibn Ayyub, known 
in the West as Saladin. Saladin came to Egypt in 1168 in the en- 
tourage of his uncle, the Kurdish general Shirkuh, who became 
the wazir, or senior minister, of the last Fatimid caliph. After the 
death of his uncle, Saladin became the master of Egypt. The dy- 
nasty he founded in Egypt, called the Ayyubid, ruled until 1260. 

Saladin abolished the Fatimid caliphate, which by this time was 
dead as a religious force, and returned Egypt to Sunni orthodoxy. 
He restored and tightened the bonds that tied Egypt to eastern Is- 
lam and reincorporated Egypt into the Sunni fold represented by 
the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad. At the same time, Egypt was 
opened to the new social changes and intellectual movements that 
had been emerging in the East. Saladin introduced into Egypt the 
madrasah, a mosque-college, which was the intellectual heart of the 


Historical Setting 

Sunni religious revival. Even Al Azhar, founded by the Fatimids, 
became in time the center of Islamic orthodoxy. 

In 1193 Saladin died peacefully in Damascus. After his death, 
his dominions split up into a loose dynastic empire controlled by 
members of his family, the Ayyubids. Within this empire, the Ay- 
yubid sultans of Egypt were paramount because their control of 
a rich, well-defined territory gave them a secure basis of power. 

Economically, the Ayyubid period was one of growth and 
prosperity. Italian, French, and Catalan merchants operated in 
ports under Ayyubid control. Egyptian products, including alum, 
for which there was a great demand, were exported to Europe. 
Egypt also profited from the transit trade from the East. Like the 
Fatimids before him, Saladin brought Yemen under his control, 
thus securing both ends of the Red Sea and an important com- 
mercial and strategic advantage. 

Culturally, too, the Ayyubid period was one of great activity. 
Egypt became a center of Arab scholarship and literature and, along 
with Syria, acquired a cultural primacy that it has retained through 
the modern period. The prosperity of the cities, the patronage of 
the Ayyubid princes, and the Sunni revival made the Ayyubid peri- 
od a cultural high point in Egyptian and Arab history. 

The Mamluks, 1250-1517 

To understand the history of Egypt during the later Middle Ages, 
it is necessary to consider two major events in the eastern Arab 
world: the migration of Turkish tribes during the Abbasid caliphate 
and their eventual domination of it, and the Mongol invasion. Turk- 
ish tribes began moving west from the Eurasian steppes in the sixth 
century. As the Abbasid Empire weakened, Turkish tribes began 
to cross the frontier in search of pasturage. The Turks converted 
to Islam within a few decades after entering the Middle East. The 
Turks also entered the Middle East as mamluks (slaves) employed 
in the armies of Arab rulers. Mamluks, although slaves, were usual- 
ly paid, sometimes handsomely, for their services. Indeed, a mam- 
luk's service as a soldier and member of an elite unit or as an 
imperial guard was an enviable first step in a career that opened 
to him the possibility of occupying the highest offices in the state. 
Mamluk training was not restricted to military matters and often 
included languages and literary and administrative skills to ena- 
ble the mamluks to occupy administrative posts. 

In the late tenth century, a new wave of Turks entered the em- 
pire as free warriors and conquerors. One group occupied Bagh- 
dad, took control of the central government, and reduced the 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Abbasid caliphs to puppets. The other moved west into Anatolia, 
which it conquered from a weakened Byzantine Empire. 

The Mamluks had already established themselves in Egypt and 
were able to establish their own empire because the Mongols de- 
stroyed the Abbasid caliphate. In 1258 the Mongol invaders put 
to death the last Abbasid caliph in Baghdad. The following year, 
a Mongol army of as many as 120,000 men commanded by Hulagu 
Khan crossed the Euphrates and entered Syria. Meanwhile, in 
Egypt the last Ayyubid sultan had died in 1250, and political con- 
trol of the state had passed to the Mamluk guards whose generals 
seized the sultanate. In 1258, soon after the news of the Mongol 
entry into Syria had reached Egypt, the Turkish Mamluk Qutuz 
declared himself sultan and organized the successful military 
resistance to the Mongol advance. The decisive battle was fought 
in 1260 at Ayn Jalut in Palestine, where Qutuz's forces defeated 
the Mongol army. 

An important role in the fighting was played by Baybars I, who 
shortly afterwards assassinated Qutuz and was chosen sultan. Bay- 
bars I (1260-77) was the real founder of the Mamluk Empire. He 
came from the elite corps of Turkish Mamluks, the Bahriyyah, 
so-called because they were garrisoned on the island of Rawdah 
on the Nile River. Baybars I established his rule firmly in Syria, 
forcing the Mongols back to their Iraqi territories. 

At the end of the fourteenth century, power passed from the origi- 
nal Turkish elite, the Bahriyyah Mamluks, to Circassians, whom 
the Turkish Mamluk sultans had in their turn recruited as slave 
soldiers. Between 1260 and 1517, Mamluk sultans of Turco- 
Circassian origin ruled an empire that stretched from Egypt to Syria 
and included the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. As "shadow 
caliphs," the Mamluk sultans organized the yearly pilgrimages to 
Mecca. Because of Mamluk power, the western Islamic world was 
shielded from the threat of the Mongols. The great cities, espe- 
cially Cairo, the Mamluk capital, grew in prestige. By the four- 
teenth century, Cairo had become the preeminent religious center 
of the Muslim world. 

Egypt under the Ottoman Empire 

In 1517 the Ottoman sultan Selim I (1512-20), known as Selim 
the Grim, conquered Egypt, defeating the Mamluk forces at Ar 
Raydaniyah, immediately outside Cairo. The origins of the Otto- 
man Empire go back to the Turkish- speaking tribes who crossed 
the frontier into Arab lands beginning in the tenth century. These 
Turkish tribes established themselves in Baghdad and Anatolia, 
but they were destroyed by the Mongols in the thirteenth century. 


Historical Setting 

In the wake of the Mongol invasion, petty Turkish dynasties 
called amirates were formed in Anatolia. The leader of one of those 
dynasties was Osman (1280-1324), the founder of the Ottoman 
Empire. In the thirteenth century, his amirate was one of many; 
by the sixteenth century, the amirate had become an empire, one 
of the largest and longest lived in world history. By the fourteenth 
century, the Ottomans already had a substantial empire in Eastern 
Europe. In 1453 they conquered Constantinople, the Byzantine 
capital, which became the Ottoman capital and was renamed Istan- 
bul. Between 1512 and 1520, the Ottomans added the Arab 
provinces, including Egypt, to their empire. 

In Egypt the victorious Selim I left behind one of his most trust- 
ed collaborators, Khair Bey, as the ruler of Egypt. Khair Bey ruled 
as the sultan's vassal, not as a provincial governor. He kept his 
court in the citadel, the ancient residence of the rulers of Egypt. 
Although Selim I did away with the Mamluk sultanate, neither 
he nor his successors succeeded in extinguishing Mamluk power 
and influence in Egypt. 

Only in the first century of Ottoman rule was the governor of 
Egypt able to perform his tasks without the interference of the Mam- 
luk beys (bey was the highest rank among the Mamluks). During 
the latter decades of the sixteenth century and the early seventeenth 
century, a series of revolts by various elements of the garrison troops 
occurred. During these years, there was also a revival within the 
Mamluk military structure. By the middle of the seventeenth cen- 
tury, political supremacy had passed to the beys. As the historian 
Daniel Crecelius has written, from that point on the history of Ot- 
toman Egypt can be explained as the struggle between the Otto- 
mans and the Mamluks for control of the administration and, hence, 
the revenues of Egypt, and the competition among rival Mamluk 
houses for control of the beylicate. This struggle affected Egyp- 
tian history until the late eighteenth century when one Mamluk 
bey gained an unprecedented control over the military and political 
structures and ousted the Ottoman governor. 

Modern Egypt 

The Neo-Mamluk Beylicate, 1760-98 

Most scholars of Egyptian history now agree that the political 
and economic changes that occurred in the early nineteenth cen- 
tury had their origins not in the French invasion of 1 798 but rather 
in events that occurred in Egypt itself in the latter half of the eigh- 
teenth century. At that time, political and military power was con- 
solidated in the hands of the Mamluk Ali Bey al Kabir (1760-66) 


Egypt: A Country Study 

and his successor, Muhammad Bey Abu adh Dhahab (1772-75). 
Before 1760 a balance of power and separate spheres of influence 
were maintained by the Mamluk beylicate, which controlled the civil 
administration and derived its revenues from the rural tax farms, 
and by the Mamluks, who dominated the military and derived 
their revenues from the urban tax farms and the customs house. 

In 1760 Ali Bey gained control of the military and drove the sul- 
tan's governor from the country. He issued firmans (decrees) in his 
own name, redirected the state revenues to his own use, and at- 
tempted to recreate the medieval Mamluk empire by invading Syr- 
ia. In addition, Ali Bey tried to strengthen commercial ties with 
Europe by encouraging trade and attempting to open the port of 
Suez to European shipping. 

Ali Bey ruled only briefly, but his successors, especially Muham- 
mad Bey, continued his policies. These two beys effectively elimi- 
nated Ottoman control and repositioned Egypt at the center of a 
newly emerging network of international relationships that em- 
braced the lands of the eastern Mediterranean, the Red Sea coasts, 
and Europe. Thus, Napoleon Bonaparte did not "open" an iso- 
lated Egypt to the West, nor was Muhammad Ali Pasha in the 
nineteenth century the originator of the policies responsible for 
Egypt's transformation. Only Ali Bey's dramatic expulsion from 
the country and Muhammad Bey's premature death of a fever 
prevented them from using the authority they acquired to carry 
on those policies that are associated with Egypt's revival in the 
nineteenth century. 

The French Invasion and Occupation, 1798-1801 

After the death of Muhammad Bey, there was a decade-long 
struggle for dominance among the beys. Eventually Ibrahim Bey 
and Murad Bey succeeded in asserting their authority and shared 
power in Egypt. Their dominance in the country survived an un- 
successful attempt by the Ottomans to reestablish the empire's con- 
trol (1786-91). The two continued in power until the French 
invasion in 1798. 

In addition to the upheavals caused by the Ottoman-Mamluk 
clashes, waves of famine and plague hit Egypt between 1784 and 
1792. Thus, Cairo was a devastated city and Egypt an impoverished 
country when the French arrived in 1798. 

On July 1, 1798, a French invasion force under the command 
of Napoleon disembarked near Alexandria. The invasion force, 
which had sailed from Toulon on May 19, was accompanied by 
a commission of scholars and scientists whose function was to in- 
vestigate every aspect of life in ancient and contemporary Egypt. 


Historical Setting 

France wanted control of Egypt for two major reasons — its com- 
mercial and agricultural potential and its strategic importance to 
the Anglo-French rivalry. During the eighteenth century, the prin- 
cipal share of European trade with Egypt was handled by French 
merchants. The French also looked to Egypt as a source of grain 
and raw materials. In strategic terms, French control of Egypt could 
be used to threaten British commercial interests in the region and 
to block Britain's overland route to India. 

The French forces took Alexandria without difficulty, defeated 
the Mamluk army at Shubra Khit and Imbabah, and entered Cairo 
on July 25. Murad Bey fled to Upper Egypt while Ibrahim Bey 
and the Ottoman viceroy went to Syria. Mamluk rule in Egypt 

Nevertheless, Napoleon's position in Egypt was precarious. The 
French controlled only the Delta and Cairo; Upper Egypt was the 
preserve of the Mamluks and the beduins. In addition, Britain and 
the Ottoman government joined forces in an attempt to defeat 
Napoleon and drive him out of Egypt. On August 1, 1798, the 
British fleet under Lord Nelson annihilated the French ships as they 
lay at anchor at Abu Qir, thus isolating Napoleon's forces in Egypt. 
On September 11, Sultan Selim III declared war on France. 

On October 21, the people of Cairo rioted against the French, 
whom they regarded as occupying strangers, not as liberators. The 
rebellion had a religious as well as a national character and cen- 
tered around Al Azhar mosque. Its leaders were the ulama, reli- 
giously trained scholars, whom Napoleon had tried to woo to the 
French side. During this period, the populace began to regard the 
ulama not only as moral but also as political leaders. 

To forestall an Ottoman invasion, Napoleon invaded Syria, but, 
unable to take Acre in Palestine, his forces retreated on May 20, 
1799. On August 22, Napoleon, with a very small company, secredy 
left Egypt for France, leaving his troops behind and General Jean- 
Baptiste Kleber as his successor. Kleber found himself the unwilling 
commander in chief of a dispirited army with a bankrupt treasury. 
His main preoccupation was to secure the evacuation of his troops 
to France. When Britain rejected the evacuation plan, Kleber was 
forced to fight. 

After Kleber' s assassination by a Syrian, his command was taken 
over by General Abdullah Jacques Menou, a French convert to 
Islam. The occupation was finally terminated by an Anglo-Ottoman 
invasion force. The French forces in Cairo surrendered on June 
18, 1801, and Menou himself surrendered at Alexandria on Sep- 
tember 3. By the end of September, the last French forces had left 
the country. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

As historian Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid Marsot has written, the three- 
year French occupation was too short to exert any lasting effects 
on Egypt, despite claims to the contrary. Its most important effect 
on Egypt internally was the rapid decline in the power of the 

The major impact of the French invasion was the effect it had 
on Europe. Napoleon's invasion revealed the Middle East as an 
area of immense strategic importance to the European powers, thus 
inaugurating the Anglo-French rivalry for influence in the region 
and bringing the British into the Mediterranean. The French in- 
vasion of Egypt also had an important effect on France because 
of the publication of Description de UEgypte, which detailed the find- 
ings of the scholars and scientists who had accompanied Napoleon 
to Egypt. This publication became the foundation of modern 
research into the history, society, and economics of Egypt. 

Muhammad Ali, 1805-48 

After the French left Egypt, an Ottoman army remained in the 
country. The Ottoman government was determined to prevent a 
revival of Mamluk power and autonomy and to bring Egypt un- 
der the control of the central government. The Ottomans appointed 
Khusraw Pasha as viceroy. Hostilities occasionally broke out be- 
tween his forces and those of the Mamluks who had established 
themselves in Upper Egypt. 

By 1803 it was apparent that a third party had emerged in the 
struggle for power in Egypt. This was the Albanian contingent of 
Ottoman forces that had come in 1801 to fight against the French. 
Muhammad Ali, who had arrived in Egypt as a junior commander 
in the Albanian forces, had by 1803 risen to commander. In just 
two short years, he would become the Ottoman viceroy in Egypt. 

Muhammad Ali, who has been called the "father of modern 
Egypt," was able to attain control of Egypt because of his own 
leadership abilities and political shrewdness but also because the 
country seemed to be slipping into anarchy. The urban notables 
and the ulama believed that Muhammad Ali was the only leader 
capable of bringing order and security to the country. The Otto- 
man government, however, aware of the threat Muhammad Ali 
represented to the central authority, attempted to get rid of him 
by making him governor of the Hijaz. Eventually, the Ottomans 
capitulated to Egyptian pressure, and in June 1805, they appoint- 
ed Muhammad Ali governor of Egypt. 

Between 1805 and 1811, Muhammad Ali consolidated his posi- 
tion in Egypt by defeating the Mamluks and bringing Upper Egypt 
under his control. Finally, in March 1811, Muhammad Ali had 


Temple of Queen Hatshepsut at Dayr al Bahri, ca. 1500 B. C. 

Courtesy Martha Hopkins 

sixty-four Mamluks, including twenty-four beys, assassinated in 
the citadel. From then on, Muhammad Ali was the sole ruler of 
Egypt. Muhammad Ali represented the successful continuation of 
policies begun by the Mamluk Ali Bey al Kabir. Like Ali Bey, Mu- 
hammad Ali had great ambitions. He, too, wanted to detach Egypt 
from the Ottoman Empire, and he realized that to do so Egypt 
had to be strong economically and militarily. 

Muhammad Ali's development strategy was based on agricul- 
ture. He expanded the area under cultivation and planted crops 
specifically for export, such as long- staple cotton, rice, indigo, and 
sugarcane. The surplus income from agricultural production was 
used for public works, such as irrigation, canals, dams, and bar- 
rages, and to finance industrial development and the military. The 
development plans hinged on the state's gaining a monopoly over 
the country's agricultural resources. In practical, terms, this meant 
the peasants were told what crops to plant, in what quantity, and 
over what area. The government bought directly from the peasants 
and sold directly to the buyer, cutting out the intermediaries or 

Muhammad Ali was also committed to the industrial develop- 
ment of Egypt. The government set up modern factories for weaving 
cotton, jute, silk, and wool. Workers were drafted into factories 


Egypt: A Country Study 

to weave on government looms. Factories for sugar, indigo, glass, 
and tanning were set up with the assistance of foreign advisers and 
imported machinery. Industries employed about 4 percent of the 
population, or between 180,000 and 200,000 persons fifteen years 
of age and over. The textile industry was protected by embargoes 
imposed by the government to prohibit the import of the cheap 
British textiles that had flooded the Egyptian market. Commer- 
cial activities were geared toward the establishment of foreign trade 
monopolies and an attempt to acquire a favorable balance of trade. 

The historian Marsot has argued that Britain became determined 
to check Muhammad Ali because a strong Egypt represented a 
threat to Britain's economic and strategic interests. Economical- 
ly, British interests would be served as long as Egypt continued 
to produce raw cotton for the textile mills of Lancashire and to im- 
port finished goods from Britain. Thus, the British and also the 
French were particularly angered by the Egyptian monopolies even 
though Britain and France engaged in such trade practices as high 
tariffs and embargoes to protect their own economies. Strategical- 
ly, Britain wanted to maintain access to the overland route through 
Egypt to India, a vital link in the line of imperial communications. 
Britain was worried not only about the establishment of a united, 
militarily strong state straddling the eastern Mediterranean but also 
about Muhammad Ali's close ties to France. 

It was at this time that Lord Palmerston, the British minister 
of foreign affairs, established the British policy, which lasted until 
the outbreak of World War I, of preserving the integrity of the 
Ottoman Empire. Britain preferred a weakened but intact Otto- 
man Empire that would grant it the strategic and commercial ad- 
vantages it needed to maintain its influence in the region. Thus, 
Muhammad Ali's invasion of Syria in 1831 and his attempt to break 
away from the Ottoman Empire jeopardized British policy and its 
military and commercial interests in the Middle East and India. 
The Egyptian invasion of Syria was provoked ostensibly by the sul- 
tan' s refusal to give Syria and Morea (Peloponnesus) to Muham- 
mad Ali in return for his assistance in opposing the Greek war for 
independence in the late 1820s. This resulted in Turkey and Egypt 
being forced out of the eastern Mediterranean by the destruction 
of their combined naval strength at Navarino on the southern coast 
of Greece. 

When Egyptian forces invaded and occupied Syria and came 
within sight of Istanbul, the great powers (Britain, France, Aus- 
tria, Russia, and Prussia) allied themselves with the Ottoman 
government to drive the Egyptian forces out of Syria. A British fleet 
bombarded Beirut in September 1840, and an Anglo-Turkish force 


Historical Setting 

landed, causing uprisings against the Egyptian forces. Acre fell in 
November, and a British naval force anchored off Alexandria. The 
Egyptian army was forced to retreat to Egypt, and Muhammad 
Ali was obliged to accede to British demands. According to the 
Treaty of 1841 , Muhammad Ali was stripped of all the conquered 
territory except Sudan but was granted the hereditary governor- 
ship of Egypt for life, with succession going to the eldest male in 
the family. Muhammad Ali was also compelled to agree to the 
Anglo-Ottoman Convention of 1838, which established "free trade" 
in Egypt. This meant that Muhammad Ali was forced to abandon 
his monopolies and establish new tariffs that were favorable to im- 
ports. Thus, Egypt was unable to control the flood of cheap manu- 
factured imports that decimated local industries. 

Muhammad Ali continued to rule Egypt after his defeat in Syria. 
He became increasingly senile toward the end of his rule and his 
eldest son, Ibrahim, petitioned the Ottoman government to be ap- 
pointed governor because of his father's inability to rule. Ibrahim 
was gravely ill of tuberculosis, however, and ruled for only six 
months, from July to November 1848. Muhammad Ali died in Au- 
gust 1849. 

Abbas Hilmi E, 1848-54 and Said, 1854-63 

Ibrahim was succeeded by Abbas Hilmi I, a genuine tradition- 
alist with no interest in continuing the development plans of his 
grandfather, Muhammad Ali. Abbas disliked Europeans, but he 
allowed a railroad line to be built between Alexandria and Cairo 
that facilitated British imperial communications with India. Regular 
steamship services already linked Britain to India via Alexandria, 
Suez, and Bombay. This partially overland route to India took 
thirty-one days, compared to three months for the journey around 
the Cape of Good Hope. 

Abbas's successor was Said, the fourth son of Muhammad Ali. 
He revived the works in agriculture, irrigation, and education be- 
gun by his father. Under his rule, the first land law governing pri- 
vate landed property in Egypt was passed in 1858. Said abolished 
the agricultural monopolies of his father by granting landowners 
the right to dispose freely of their produce as well as the freedom 
to choose what crops to cultivate. He also introduced uniform mili- 
tary service and the first organized pension plan for public servants. 

Said was a friend of the French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps, 
to whom he granted a concession in 1854 to construct a canal from 
the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. The Suez Canal Company was 
organized to undertake the construction, and the concession to the 
company included two items that proved costly for Egypt. First, 


Egypt: A Country Study 

the company was granted a strip of land linking the Nile with the 
canal site. There a freshwater canal was constructed, and the strip 
of land was decreed tax free, allowing the company to enjoy the 
benefits of its cultivation. Second, the viceroy undertook to sup- 
ply labor for the canal's construction, in what amounted to a sys- 
tem of forced labor (see Suez Canal, ch. 3). 

Social Change in the Nineteenth Century 

During the nineteenth century, the socioeconomic and political 
foundations of the modern Egyptian state were laid. The transfor- 
mation of Egypt began with the integration of the economy into 
the world capitalist system with the result that by the end of the 
century Egypt had become an exporter of raw materials to Europe 
and an importer of European manufactured goods. The transfor- 
mation of Egypt led to the emergence of a ruling elite composed 
of large landowners of Turco-Circassian origin and the creation 
of a class of medium-sized landowners of Egyptian origin who 
played an increasingly important role in the political and econom- 
ic life of the country. In the countryside, peasants were dispossessed 
because of debt, and many landless peasants migrated to the cities 
where they joined the swelling ranks of the under- and unemployed. 
In the cities, a professional middle class emerged composed of civil 
servants, lawyers, teachers, and technicians. Finally, Western ideas 
and cultural forms were introduced into the country. 

Rural Society 

Muhammad Ali had attempted to take Egypt directly from a 
subsistence agricultural economy to a complex industrial one. He 
failed because of internal weaknesses and European pressures. Iron- 
ically, Muhammad Ali, whose goal was to make Egypt economi- 
cally and politically independent of Europe, set the country on the 
path to economic dependence and foreign domination. 

In the industrial sector, Muhammad Ali's factories did not last 
past his death. In the agricultural sector, Egypt's long-staple cot- 
ton became increasingly attractive to British textile manufacturers. 
Between 1840 and 1860, the export of cotton increased 300 per- 
cent. During the American Civil War, the area devoted to cotton 
cultivation in Egypt increased almost fourfold and cotton prices 
rose along with cotton production. 

The transformation of the rural economy from subsistence to 
cash-crop agriculture caused dramatic changes, including the 
privatization of land in fewer hands and the dispossession of 
peasants. The privatization of land began during the reign of Mu- 
hammad Ali, who in the 1840s distributed half the agricultural land 


Historical Setting 

to royal family members, Turco-Circassian officials, and Egyp- 
tian notables or village headmen. Although many land grants were 
rescinded during the reign of Abbas, consolidation of landhold- 
ings proceeded during the reigns of Said and Ismail at the expense 
of small and middle-sized peasant proprietors. By the 1870s, the 
royal family owned one- fifth of all the cultivated land in the coun- 
try. The largest royal estates could be as large as 10,000 feddans 
(a feddan is slightly more than an acre — see Glossary). By the 1890s, 
42 . 5 percent of all registered land was held in tracts of more than 
fifty feddans. The largest landowners included members of the roy- 
al family, and the Turco-Circassian elite of officers and officials. 
Their estates were worked by sharecroppers or agricultural laborers. 
By the time of Ismail, these landowners had developed into a landed 
aristocracy. Another group of landholding elite originated with 
Muhammad Ali's appointment of Egyptians as village headmen 
(umada; sing., umdah), the state's agents in the countryside. This 
was Muhammad Ali's attempt to reduce the power of the Turco- 
Circassians. With the privatization of land, the Egyptian notables 
became substantial landowners with considerable political influence. 

Historian Judith Tucker has described the nineteenth century 
as a time when the peasants were transformed from independent 
producers with rights to use the land to landless peasants forced 
to work as wage-laborers or to migrate to the cities where they be- 
came part of the urban dispossessed. The development of capitalist 
agriculture and a monetized rural economy spelled disaster for many 
peasants. Despite land laws like those of Said in 1855 and 1858, 
which gave peasants legal ownership of their plots, peasant land 
loss occurred at an unprecedented rate, chiefly because of indebt- 
edness. Forced to borrow at high rates of interest to get the seed 
and animals necessary for sowing and to pay monthly installments 
on their taxes, the peasants had to repay these loans at harvest time 
when the prices were lowest. 

The American Civil War put a premium on Egyptian cotton, 
and the price increased. When the war ended, the inflated prices 
suddenly dropped. For the first time in Egypt, a serious problem 
of peasant indebtedness appeared with its inevitable consequences: 
mortgages, foreclosures, and usurious loans. The village headmen 
and the owners of great estates profited from the crisis by purchasing 
abandoned land. The headmen also profited as moneylenders. 

Peasants also lost land because taxes on peasant land were higher 
than on estate land. Large landholders sometimes paid as little as 
one-fourth of the taxes paid by the peasantry. In addition, peasants 
fled the countryside to escape corvee (forced labor) on the state's 
public works projects and military conscription. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

At the turn of the century, the population of Egypt was about 
10 million. Of this total, between 10 and 20 percent were landless 
peasants. In 1906 less than 20 percent of the privately held and 
^^(religiously endowed) land was held by 80 percent of the popu- 
lation while 1 percent owned more than 40 percent. Most landown- 
ers owned between one and five feddans, with three feddans being 
necessary for subsistence. 

Towns and Cities 

Of the 10 million people in Egypt at the turn of the century, 
approximately 2 million lived in towns and cities, and of those, 
500,000 lived in cities with a population of more than 20,000. The 
population of Alexandria grew as it became the financial and com- 
mercial center of the cotton industry. New towns like Az Zaqaziq 
and Port Said (Bur Said) on the Suez Canal were established. 

Most of the increase in Egypt's urban population was the result 
of the migration of peasants from the countryside. Although some 
became workers or petty traders, most joined the ranks of the under- 
or unemployed. By the turn of the century, a working class had 
emerged. It was composed mainly of transport and building workers 
and of workers in the few industries that had been established — 
sugar refineries, ginning mills, and cigarette factories. However, 
a large proportion of the new urban lower class consisted of a fluc- 
tuating mass of people without any fixed employment. 

The old lower class of the cities and towns, particularly the arti- 
sans, suffered from the influx of cheaply made European imports. 
Whereas some crafts, like basketry, pottery, and rug weaving, sur- 
vived, others such as textiles and glass blowing were virtually elim- 
inated. The urban guilds declined and eventually disappeared 
because Europeans replaced Egyptians in production and commerce. 

The old, or traditional, middle class also declined in status and 
wealth. This middle class included the ulama, religiously educat- 
ed elite who staffed the religious institutions and courts, and the 
merchants. The ulama and the merchants were closely tied to each 
other because of family and business connections. Furthermore, 
these categories overlapped; the ulama were also merchants and 
tax-farmers. The decline of the ulama began during the reign of 
Muhammad Ali who considered the ulama an intolerable alterna- 
tive power center. He abolished tax farms, which were a major 
source of ulama wealth, thus weakening their position. 

The decline of the ulama and the merchants was accelerated by 
the socioeconomic transformation of Egypt that led to the emer- 
gence of secular education, to secularly trained civil servants staffing 


Historical Setting 

the government bureaucracy, and to the reorientation of Egyptian 
trade. Secular education and the establishment of schools influenced 
by Western ideas and methods occurred throughout the century 
but were particularly widespread during the reign of Khedive (see 
Glossary) Ismail. Secular education became identified with entrance 
into government employment. Moreover, once government employ- 
ment was opened to Egyptians, it became the goal of the educated 
because of the power and social status it conferred. Between 1882 
and 1907, the number of persons employed in public administration 
grew by 83.7 percent. The rise of this new urban middle class, called 
the effendiyah, parallelled the rise of the rural notables or umada. In 
fact, during the nineteenth century, the effendiyah tended to be first- 
generation urbanites from rural notable families who took advantage 
of expanded education and employment opportunities in the cities. 

Whereas the Egyptian effendiyah and umada were rising, the tradi- 
tional merchant class declined because the lucrative import-export 
trade was dominated by resident foreigners, and Egyptian merchants 
were confined to internal trade. During the nineteenth century, for- 
eign trade was completely reoriented. In the past, it had dealt mainly 
in Sudanese, Arabian, and oriental goods. Cairo was one of the most 
important centers of trade, and Egyptian, Syrian, and Turkish mer- 
chants engaged in it. During the nineteenth century, Greeks and 
other Europeans resident in Egypt monopolized the export of cot- 
ton to Europe and the import of European industrial goods. 

The change was reflected in the increase of foreigners in Egypt — 
from between 8,000 and 10,000 in 1838 to 90,000 in 1881. The 
majority was engaged in cotton production, import-export trade, 
banking, and finance. The European community occupied a priv- 
ileged position as a result of the capitulations, the treaties govern- 
ing the status of foreigners within the Ottoman Empire. These treaties 
put Europeans virtually beyond the reach of Egyptian law until the 
establishment of the mixed courts (with jurisdiction over Egyptians 
and foreigners) in 1876. Like the artisans, Egyptian merchants 
suffered from a large variety of oppressive taxes and duties from 
which foreign merchants were exempt. With the support of their 
consuls, foreigners in Egypt became an increasingly powerful pres- 
sure group committed to defending their own interests. 

From Autonomy to Occupation: Ismail, Tawfiq, and 
the Urabi Revolt 
Khedive Ismail, 1863-79 

No ruler of Egypt, except Gamal Abdul Nasser, has provoked 
such controversy in the West as Ismail. At the time, the anti-Ismail 


Egypt: A Country Study 

view was held mainly by British administrators like Evelyn Bar- 
ing (Lord Cromer) and Lord Alfred Milner, who depicted him as 
squeezing the peasants for money by oppressive taxation and the 
whip, and ''ruining Egypt" by his lavish spending and despotic 
ways. Journalists and the American consuls in Egypt such as Ed- 
win de Leon held a more balanced view, arguing that Ismail in- 
herited an unfavorable Suez Canal agreement and a significant 
public and private debt from his uncle, Said. They noted that 
although Ismail spent lavishly, much of the money he borrowed 
from European bankers was used for building or repairing the coun- 
try 's infrastructure. They also pointed out that European bankers 
and financiers loaned money to Egypt at usurious interest rates 
and, when it seemed Egypt would be unable to repay the loans, 
urged their governments to intervene to protect their interests. 

Ismail's goals for Egypt were similar to those of his grandfather, 
Muhammad Ali. He wanted Egypt to become virtually indepen- 
dent of the Ottoman Empire, a political and military power in the 
eastern Mediterranean and an economic partner of Europe. Ismail 
achieved a considerable degree of independence from the Porte 
(from Sublime Porte, the term for the High Gate that came to be 
synonymous with the Ottoman government) by making large pay- 
ments to the Ottoman treasury. For example, in return for increas- 
ing Egypt's annual payment to the Ottoman treasury from £175,000 
to £400,000, Sultan Abdul Aziz allowed Ismail to change the rule 
of succession from the oldest surviving male heir of Muhammad 
Ali to direct male primogeniture in his family. The sultan also grant- 
ed Ismail the formal title of khedive, which elevated his standing 
to a position closer to royalty. 

Ismail's attempt to make Egypt independent foundered eventu- 
ally because of the gap between the revenues the country could 
produce and the expenses necessary to achieve his goals. He at- 
tempted to generate more income by increasing agricultural produc- 
tivity, chiefly by bringing more land into cultivation through 
expensive irrigation projects such as the construction of canals 
and dams. During his reign, an additional 506,000 hectares were 
brought under cultivation, representing a sizeable increase in both 
production and income. 

To service the cotton crop, which was the basis of Egypt's 
prosperity, roads, bridges, railways, harbors, and telegraph lines 
had to be constructed. During Ismail's reign, 112 canals, 13,440 
kilometers long, were dug; 400 bridges were built; 480 kilometers 
of railroad lines were laid; and 8,000 kilometers of telegraph lines 
were erected. Towns and cities were modernized by the expan- 
sion of public services such as water distribution, transport, street 


Historical Setting 

lighting, and gas supply. Public education was reorganized and 
expanded, and a postal service was established. The army and 
bureaucracy were expanded and modernized. In short, Ismail un- 
dertook the construction of the infrastructure of a modern state. 

Ismail greatly expanded Egypt's revenues and exports during 
his reign. But the country's prosperity was tied to the export of 
cotton, whose price was set on a fluctuating world market, mak- 
ing income uncertain. Moreover, Ismail's infrastructure develop- 
ment entailed more expenditure than Egypt's income could provide, 
with the result that he was obliged to contract foreign loans. These 
loans, added to the expensive concessions that Said had made con- 
cerning the Suez Canal, meant that by 1875 Egypt was £100 mil- 
lion in debt. In that year, Ismail sold his shares in the Suez Canal 
Company, making the British government overnight the single larg- 
est shareholder in the company. The sale of Ismail's shares did not 
solve the country's financial problems, however, but merely staved 
off the crisis for another year. 

From Intervention to Occupation, 1876-82 

Seriously concerned with the country's financial situation, Is- 
mail asked for British help in fiscal reform. Britain responded by 
sending Steven Cave, a member of Parliament, to investigate. Cave 
judged Egypt to be solvent on the basis of its resources and said 
that all the country needed to get back on its feet was time and 
the proper servicing of the debts. Cave recommended the estab- 
lishment of a control commission over Egypt's finances to approve 
all future loans. 

European creditors, however, would not allow Egypt time. When 
Ismail suspended payment of interest on the loans in 1875, his cred- 
itors in Britain and France appointed two men to represent their 
interests and negotiate new arrangements with the khedive. The 
Goschen-Joubert Mission achieved three things: the consolidation 
of the debt; the appointment of two European controllers, one Brit- 
ish and one French; and the establishment of the Caisse de la Dette 
Publique, a special department with representatives from the var- 
ious European creditor states to ensure the service of the debt. 
Revenue from the most productive provinces went straight to the 
department, and by 1877 more than 60 percent of all Egyptian 
revenue went to service the national debt. 

Although Egypt serviced the debt faithfully, European interven- 
tion increased. At the insistence of the French, a commission of in- 
quiry was appointed in 1878 to examine all sources of revenue and 
expenditure. The commission had the right to ask any Egyptian 


Egypt: A Country Study 

official or government deputy to testify before it and to subpoena 
all records. Such powers implied the dilution of Egyptian 
sovereignty by Europeans. 

The commission report indicted the khedival government and 
suggested limiting Ismail's power as a first step in solving the coun- 
try's financial problems. The khedive accepted the commission's 
conditions, including a cabinet containing Europeans and the prin- 
ciple of ministerial responsibility. He appointed Nubar Pasha as 
prime minister and asked him to form a government containing 
two Europeans. Many Europeans were appointed at high salaries 
in various government departments; thirty British officers were ap- 
pointed to the Land Survey Department alone. Ismail was also 
forced to delegate governmental responsibility to his cabinet, which 
was made independent of the khedive and responsible for the ad- 
ministration of the country. 

Opposition to European intervention in Egypt's internal affairs 
emerged from the Assembly of Delegates, which Ismail had creat- 
ed in 1866, and from the Egyptian army officers. The assembly, 
composed mainly of Egyptian notables, had no legislative power. 
It was Ismail's attempt to associate the Egyptian notables with his 
financial policies, and thus, to demonstrate support for his taxes 
and foreign loans. The presence of Egyptian officers in the army 
resulted from the 1854 decree of Said, who ordered the sons of vil- 
lage notables to join the army. Said allowed them to be trained 
as officers and to rise to the rank of colonel, but the top posts in 
the army continued to be held by members of the Turco-Circassian 

The Assembly of Delegates, meeting between January and July 
1879, demanded more control over financial matters and account- 
ability of the European ministers to the assembly. At the same time, 
a group of Egyptian army officers who opposed the mixed cabinet 
protested the placing of 2,500 officers on half-pay. A group of army 
officers marched on the Ministry of Finance and occupied the build- 
ing. Only the personal intervention of the khedive, who was sus- 
pected of instigating the incident, saved the situation. At this point, 
Ismail realized that he could use both the assembly and the army 
officers to rid himself of foreign control. 

In April 1879, Ismail's opportunity came. Under foreign pres- 
sure, Ismail ordered the assembly to dissolve. Its members refused, 
saying they represented the nation and would not relinquish their 
mandate at the order of the khedive, influenced and pressured as 
he was by foreign powers. On March 29, they presented a manifesto 
to the khedive protesting the Council of Ministers' attempts to usurp 
their power and authority. They also stated their determination 


Historical Setting 

to reject the European ministers' demand that Egypt declare itself 

The leader of the delegates was the constitutionally minded Mu- 
hammad Sharif Pasha, who was among the members of a secret 
society called the National Society (later the Hulwan Society). The 
society had drawn up a plan for national reform (Laiha Wataniyah) 
that proposed constitutional and financial reforms to increase the 
power of the assembly and resolve Egypt's financial problems 
without foreign advisers or control. 

In a shrewd political move, Ismail summoned the European con- 
suls and confronted them with the discontent of the delegates, the 
disaffection in the army, and the general public uneasiness. He 
informed them that he had decided to act in accordance with the 
resolutions of the assembly. Therefore, he rejected the proposal 
to declare Egypt bankrupt and stated his intent to meet all obliga- 
tions to Egypt's creditors. He also invited Sharif Pasha to form 
a government. Sharif Pasha and his Egyptian cabinet dismissed 
the European ministers. 

Although these actions made Ismail popular at home, they threat- 
ened continued European control over Egypt's finances. The Eu- 
ropean powers, particularly Britain and France, decided Ismail had 
to go. Since he refused to abdicate, the European powers put pres- 
sure on the Ottoman sultan to dismiss him in favor of his son Taw- 
fiq. On June 26, 1879, he received a telegram from the grand vizier 
addressed to "the ex-khedive Ismail." Ismail left Egypt for exile 
in Naples and subsequently in Istanbul, where he died in 1895. 

Tawfiq proved to be a more pliable instrument in the hands of 
the European powers. The dual control of Egypt's finances was 
reinstituted. An international commission of liquidation was ap- 
pointed with British, French, Austrian, and Italian members. In 
July 1880, the Law of Liquidation was promulgated, limiting Egypt 
to 50 percent of its total revenues. The rest went to the Caisse de 
la Dette Publique to service the debt. The Assembly of Delegates 
remained dissolved. 

The direct interference of Europeans in Egypt's affairs and the 
deposition of Khedive Ismail forged a nationalist movement com- 
posed of Egyptian landowners and merchants, especially former 
members of the assembly, Egyptian army officers, and the intel- 
ligentsia, including the ulama and Muslim reformers. A secret so- 
ciety of Egyptian army officers had also come into existence in 1876, 
comparable to the secret society of Egyptian notables. The army 
society included Colonel Ahmad Urabi, who would become the lead- 
er of the nationalist movement, and colonels Ali Fahmi and Abd 
al Al Hilmi. In 1881 a link, if not a merger, was formed between 


Egypt: A Country Study 

the Urabists and the National Society. This expanded group took 
the name Al Hizb al Watani al Ahli, the National Popular Party. 

Beginning in 1881, the army officers demonstrated their strength 
and their ability to intimidate the khedive. They began with a mu- 
tiny provoked by the anti-Urabist minister of war. Not only were 
they able to force the appointment of a more sympathetic minister 
but by January 1882, Urabi joined the government as undersecre- 
tary for war. 

These developments alarmed the European powers, particular- 
ly Britain and France. Britain was especially concerned about pro- 
tecting the Suez Canal and the British lifeline to India. In January 
1882, Britain and France sent a joint note declaring their support 
for the khedive. The note had the opposite effect from that intend- 
ed, producing an upsurge in anti-European feeling, a shift in leader- 
ship of the nationalist movement from the moderates in the assembly 
to the military, and the formation of a new government with Ura- 
bi as minister of war. At this point, the goal of Urabi and his fol- 
lowers became not only the removal of all European influence from 
Egypt but also the overthrow of the khedive. 

In another attempt to break Urabi' s power, the British and 
French agreed on a joint show of naval strength. They also issued 
a series of demands including the resignation of the government, 
the temporary exile of Urabi, and the internal exile of his two closest 
associates, Ali Fahmi and Abd al Al Hilmi. As a result, violent 
anti-European riots broke out in Alexandria with considerable loss 
of life on both sides. 

During the summer, an international conference of the Euro- 
pean powers met in Istanbul, but no agreement was reached. The 
Ottoman sultan Abdul Hamid boycotted the conference and re- 
fused to send troops to Egypt. Eventually, Britain decided to act 
alone. The French withdrew their naval squadron from Alexan- 
dria, and in July 1882, the British fleet began bombarding Alex- 

Following the burning of Alexandria and its occupation by British 
marines, the British installed the khedive in the Ras at Tin Palace. 
The khedive obligingly declared Urabi a rebel and deprived him 
of his political rights. Urabi in turn obtained a religious ruling, 
a fatwa, signed by three Al Azhar shaykhs, deposing Tawfiq as a 
traitor who brought about the foreign occupation of his country 
and betrayed his religion. Urabi also ordered general conscription 
and declared war on Britain. Thus, as the British army was about 
to land in August, Egypt had two leaders: the khedive, whose 
authority was confined to British-controlled Alexandria, and Ura- 
bi, who was in full control of Cairo and the provinces. 



Egypt: A Country Study 

In August Sir Garnet Wolsley and an army of 20,000 invaded 
the Suez Canal Zone. Wolsley was authorized to crush the Urabi 
forces and clear the country of rebels. The decisive battle was fought 
at Tall al Kabir on September 13, 1882. The Urabi forces were 
routed and the capital captured. The nominal authority of the khe- 
dive was restored, and the British occupation of Egypt, which was 
to last for seventy-two years, had begun. 

Urabi was captured, and he and his associates were put on tri- 
al. An Egyptian court sentenced Urabi to death, but through British 
intervention the sentence was commuted to banishment to Cey- 
lon. Britain's military intervention in 1882 and its extended, if at- 
tenuated, occupation of the country left a legacy of bitterness among 
the Egyptians that would not be expunged until 1956 when Brit- 
ish troops were finally removed from the country. 

From Occupation to Nominal Independence, 1882-1923 
The Occupiers 

With the occupation of 1882, Egypt became a part of the Brit- 
ish Empire but never officially a colony. The khedival government 
provided the facade of autonomy, but behind it lay the real power 
in the country, specifically, the British agent and consul general, 
backed by British troops. 

At the outset of the occupation, the British government declared 
its intention to withdraw its troops as soon as possible. This could 
not be done, however, until the authority of the khedive was re- 
stored. Eventually, the British realized that these two aims were 
incompatible because the military intervention, which Khedive 
Tawfiq supported and which prevented his overthrow, had under- 
mined the authority of the ruler. Without the British presence, the 
khedival government would probably have collapsed. 

In addition, the British government realized that the most ef- 
fective way to protect its interests was from its position in Egypt. 
This represented a change in the policy that had existed since the 
time of Muhammad Ali, when the British were committed to 
preserving the Ottoman Empire. The change in British policy oc- 
curred for several reasons. Sultan Abdul Hamid had refused Brit- 
ain's request to intervene in Egypt against Urabi and to preserve 
the khedival government. Also, Britain's influence in Istanbul was 
declining while that of Germany was rising. Finally, Britain's 
unilateral invasion of Egypt gave Britain the opportunity to sup- 
plant French influence in the country. Moreover, Britain was de- 
termined to preserve its control over the Suez Canal and to 
safeguard the vital route to India. 


Historical Setting 

Between 1883 and the outbreak of World War I in 1914, there 
were three British agents and consuls general in Egypt: Lord 
Cromer (1883-1907), Sir John Eldon Gorst (1907-11), and Lord 
Herbert Kitchener (1911-14). Cromer was an autocrat whose con- 
trol over Egypt was more absolute than that of any Mamluk or 
khedive. Cromer believed his first task was to achieve financial sol- 
vency for Egypt. He serviced the debt, balanced the budget, and 
spent what money remained after debt payments on agriculture, 
irrigation, and railroads. He neglected industry and education, a 
policy that became a political issue in the country. He brought in 
British officials to staff the bureaucracy. This policy, too, was con- 
troversial because it prevented Egyptian civil servants from rising 
to the top of their fields. 

Gorst, who was less autocratic than Cromer, had to face a grow- 
ing Egyptian nationalism that demanded British evacuation from 
the country. Gorst 's attempt to create a "moderate" nationalism 
ultimately failed because the nationalists refused to make any com- 
promises over independence and because Britain considered any 
concession to the nationalists a sign of weakness. 

When Kitchener arrived in Egypt in 1911, he was already fa- 
mous as the man who had avenged the death of General Charles 
Gordon in Khartoum in 1885 during the Mahdist uprising. In 1913 
Kitchener introduced a new constitution that gave the country some 
representative institutions locally and nationally. When the Brit- 
ish occupation began, the Assembly of Delegates had ceased to exist. 
It was superseded by an assembly and legislative council that were 
consultative bodies whose advice was not binding on the govern- 
ment. The Organic Law of 1913 provided for a legislative assem- 
bly with an increased number of elected members and expanded 

On October 29, 1914, the Ottoman Empire entered World War 
I on the side of the Central Powers. Martial law was declared in 
Egypt on November 2 . On November 3 , the British government 
unilaterally declared Egypt a protectorate, severing the country from 
the Ottoman Empire. Britain deposed Khedive Abbas, who had 
succeeded Khedive Tawfiq upon the latter's death in 1892, because 
Abbas, who was in Istanbul when the war broke out, was suspect- 
ed of pro-German sympathies. Kitchener was recalled to London 
to serve as minister of war. 

Economy and Society under Occupation 

By 1914 cotton constituted 90 percent of Egypt's exports. To 
the British, who controlled Egypt's financial and economic life, en- 
suring Egypt's prosperity and its ability to service its debt meant 


Egypt: A Country Study 

expanding Egypt's reliance on cotton production. Some British offi- 
cials had more personal reasons for their interest in the produc- 
tion and export of cotton. Some were landowners; some were 
involved in the marketing of the crop; and some, like Lord Cromer, 
made huge fortunes from cotton speculation. 

Trade policy was based on free trade, which favored the more 
industrialized nations whose products undersold those produced 
locally. Lord Cromer himself described the effects of the import 
of European manufactures on local craft production. He noted that 
quarters of the city that had been * 'hives of busy workmen" had 
shrunk or been eliminated entirely. Cafes and small stores selling 
European goods replaced productive workshops. Egyptian indus- 
trialization would have required protective tariffs that the British 
would not allow. Thus, although Egypt had a solid infrastructure, 
a sizeable local market, and an indigenous supply of capital, in- 
dustrial development was stymied by a British trade policy that 
sought to protect the Egyptian market for British products and to 
maintain Britain's near monopoly on Egyptian cotton. 

In spite of these formidable obstacles, a small industrial sector 
did develop, devoted primarily to processing raw materials and 
producing perishable or bulky goods. Industrialization gave rise 
to a modern working class engaged in factory labor. By 1916 there 
were 30,000 to 35,000 workers employed in modern factories. 

Pay in the industrial sector was low and working conditions some- 
times unsafe. Just as it maintained a hands-off policy concerning 
trade, the state refused to intervene to regulate working conditions. 
Between 1899 and 1907, at least seven workers' associations were 
formed, focusing on conditions and pay. Strikes were organized 
among cigarette wrappers; warehouse, port, and railroad workers; 
and spinners in factories. The working-class movement received 
considerable support from Mustafa Kamil's National Party (Al 
Hizb al Watani), which set up schools in working-class areas and 
assisted unions with publicity and legal counsel during strikes. The 
unions, like the nationalist movement, were severely repressed by 
the government. 

In 1906 the Dinshawi Incident occurred, which intensified na- 
tionalist and anti- British sentiments. A fight broke out between the 
villagers of Dinshawi, near Tanta in the Delta, and a group of Brit- 
ish officers who were shooting pigeons nearby. In the course of 
the shooting, the wife of the local imam (religious leader) was shot 
and wounded. Villagers surrounded the officers, and in the ensu- 
ing fracas, two British officers were wounded. The officers in turn 
panicked and opened fire on the villagers. One of the British officers 
died of his wounds as he attempted to march back to camp a few 


Historical Setting 

miles away. British soldiers who found the dead officer beat a 
peasant to death. Fifty-two Egyptians were arrested and brought 
before a special court convened in Shibin al Kawm. Four peasants 
were sentenced to death, many to terms of imprisonment at hard 
labor, and others to public flogging. The sentences were executed 
swiftly, publicly, and brutally. This event heightened Egyptian po- 
litical consciousness and led to the organization of political parties. 

In 1907 two political parties were formed, which served as vehi- 
cles for expressing nationalist ideas and actions. They were Kamil's 
National Party (also seen as the Watani Party) and the People's 
Party (Al Hizb al Umma or Umma Party). The Umma Party was 
founded by Mahmud Sulayman Pasha, a former leader of the as- 
sembly and ally of Colonel Urabi, and Hasan Abd ar Raziq, among 
others. The most prominent member of the Umma Party was Ah- 
mad Lutfi as Sayyid, editor of the party's newspaper, Al Jaridah 
(The Newspaper). The National Party's newspaper was Al Liwa 
(The Standard). Kamil and Lutfi as Sayyid were Egyptian rather 
than Turco-Circassian in origin and represented the increasing po- 
litical strength of Egyptians in national life. Kamil's party called 
for the British to evacuate Egypt immediately. Although Kamil 
agreed that Egypt needed reform, he argued that the British pres- 
ence was not necessary to achieve it. Because Islam played a larg- 
er role in his thought and in the party ideology than in the Umma 
Party, Kamil and the National Party attracted to it anti- European 
conservatives and religious traditionalists. 

The leaders of the Umma Party had been disciples of the in- 
fluential Islamic reformer Muhammad Abduh. Unlike Abduh, 
however, who was concerned with the reform of Islam to accom- 
modate it to the modern world, Lutfi as Sayyid was concerned with 
progress and the reform of society. The aim of the Umma Party 
was independence. Lutfi as Sayyid believed, however, that Egypt 
would attain self-rule not by attacking the British or the khedive 
but through reform of Egyptian laws and institutions and the par- 
ticipation of Egyptians in public life. 

Lutfi as Sayyid believed Egypt should cooperate in any mea- 
sures that would limit the autocracy of the khedive and expand 
constitutional government, which could only strengthen the na- 
tion. Implicit in the Umma program was the idea of tactical cooper- 
ation and eventual negotiation with the British on the future of 
Egypt, an idea that Kamil and the National Party rejected. The 
National Party was described as "extremist" because of its demand 
for the immediate withdrawal of the British, while the Umma Party 
was called "moderate" because of its gradualist approach to in- 
dependence from British domination. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Kamil died in 1908; the party never recovered from his death 
although it continued to play a role in national political life until 
1952. It was the only political group that refused to take part in 
negotiations for the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936. The Umma 
Party participated in Egyptian party politics until World War I, 
and its newspaper ceased publication in 1915. The party's influence 
was long-lasting, however, because Saad Zaghlul, who emerged 
as leader of the nationalist movement after the war, was part of 
the Umma/i/ Jaridah circle. 

Egypt under the Protectorate and the 1919 Revolution 

Opposition to European interference in Egypt's affairs resulted 
in the emergence of a nationalist movement that coalesced and 
spread after the British military intervention and occupation of 1882. 
The immediate causes of what is known to Egyptians as the 1919 
Revolution, however, were British actions during the war that 
caused widespread hardship and resentment. Specifically, these in- 
cluded Britain's purchase of cotton and requisitioning of fodder 
at below market prices, Britain's forcible recruitment of about 
500,000 peasants into the Labor and Camel Transport Corps in 
the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, and its use of the country as 
a base and a garrison populated by British, Australian, and other 
troops. After the war, Egypt felt the adverse effects of soaring prices 
and unemployment. 

When the war ended, the nationalists began to press the British 
again for independence. In addition to their other reasons, the Egyp- 
tians were influenced by American president Woodrow Wilson, 
who was preaching self-determination for all nations. In Septem- 
ber 1918, Egypt made the first moves toward the formation of a 
wafd, or delegation, to voice its demands for independence at the 
Paris Peace Conference. The idea for a wafdhad originated among 
prominent members of the Umma Party, including Lutfi as Say- 
yid, Saad Zaghlul, Muhammad Mahmud, Ali Sharawi, and Abd 
al Aziz Fahmi. 

On November 13, 1918, thereafter celebrated in Egypt as Yawm 
al Jihad (Day of Struggle), Zaghlul, Fahmi, and Sharawi had an 
audience with Sir Reginald Wingate, the British high commissioner. 
They demanded complete independence with the proviso that Brit- 
ain be allowed to supervise the Suez Canal and the public debt. 
They also asked permission to go to London to put their case be- 
fore the British government. On the same day, the Egyptians 
formed a delegation for this purpose, Al Wafd al Misri (known 
as the Wafd), headed by Saad Zaghlul. The British refused to al- 
low the Wafd to proceed to London. On March 8, Zaghlul and 


Historical Setting 

three other members of the Wafd were arrested and thrown into 
Qasr an Nil prison. The next day, they were deported to Malta, 
an action that sparked the popular uprising of March-April 1919 
in which Egyptians of all social classes participated. There were 
violent clashes in Cairo and the provincial cities of Lower Egypt, 
especially Tanta, and the uprising spread to the south, culminat- 
ing in violent confrontations in Asyut Province in Upper Egypt. 

The deportation of the Wafdists also triggered student demon- 
strations and escalated into massive strikes by students, govern- 
ment officials, professionals, women, and transport workers. Within 
a week, all of Egypt was paralyzed by general strikes and rioting. 
Railroad and telegraph lines were cut, taxi drivers refused to work, 
lawyers failed to appear for court cases, and demonstrators marched 
through the streets shouting pro-Wafdist slogans and demanding 
independence. Violence resulted, with many Egyptians and Eu- 
ropeans being killed or injured when the British attempted to crush 
the demonstrations with force. 

On March 16, between 150 and 300 upper-class Egyptian women 
in veils staged a demonstration against the British occupation, an 
event that marked the entrance of Egyptian women into public life. 
The women were led by Safla Zaghlul, wife of Wafd leader Saad 
Zaghlul; Huda Sharawi, wife of one of the original members of 
the Wafd and organizer of the Egyptian Feminist Union; and Muna 
Fahmi Wissa. Women of the lower classes demonstrated in the 
streets alongside the men. In the countryside, women engaged in 
activities like cutting rail lines. 

The upper-class women participating in politics for the first time 
assumed key roles in the movement when the male leaders were 
exiled or detained. They organized strikes, demonstrations, and 
boycotts of British goods and wrote petitions, which they circulat- 
ed to foreign embassies protesting British actions in Egypt. 

The women's march of March 16 preceded by one day the larg- 
est demonstration of the 1919 Revolution. More than 10,000 
teachers, students, workers, lawyers, and government employees 
started marching at Al Azhar and wound their way to Abdin Palace 
where they were joined by thousands more, who ignored British 
roadblocks and bans. Soon, similar demonstrations broke out in 
Alexandria, Tanta, Damanhur, Al Mansurah, and Al Fayyum. 
By the summer of 1919, more than 800 Egyptians had been killed, 
as well as 31 Europeans and 29 British soldiers. 

Wingate, the British high commissioner, understood the strength 
of the nationalist forces and the threat the Wafd represented to British 
dominance and had tried to persuade the British government to al- 
low the Wafd to travel to Paris. However, the British government 


Egypt: A Country Study 

remained hostile to Zaghlul and the nationalists and adamant in 
rejecting Egyptian demands for independence. Wingate was recalled 
to London for talks on the Egyptian situation, and Milne Cheetham 
became acting high commissioner in January 1919. When the 1919 
Revolution began, Cheetham soon realized that he was powerless 
to stop the demonstrations and admitted that matters were com- 
pletely out of his control. Nevertheless, the government in Lon- 
don ordered him not to give in to the Wafd and to restore order, 
a task that he was unable to accomplish. 

London decided to replace Wingate with a strong military figure, 
General Edmund Allenby, the greatest British hero of World War 
I. He was named special high commissioner and arrived in Egypt 
on March 25. The next day, he met with a group of Egyptian na- 
tionalists and ulama. After persuading Allenby to release the Wafd 
leaders and to permit them to travel to Paris, the Egyptian group 
agreed to sign a statement urging the people to stop demonstrat- 
ing. Allenby, who was convinced that this was the only way to stop 
the revolt, then had to persuade the British government to agree. 
On April 7, Zaghlul and his colleagues were released and set out 
for Paris. 

In May 1919, Lord Milner was appointed to head a mission to 
investigate how Egypt could be granted "self-governing institu- 
tions" while maintaining the protectorate and safeguarding Brit- 
ish interests. The mission arrived in Egypt in December 1919 but 
was boycotted by the nationalists, who opposed the continuation 
of the protectorate. The arrival of the Milner Mission was followed 
by strikes in which students, lawyers, professionals, and workers 
participated. Merchants closed their shops, and organizers distribut- 
ed leaflets urging the Egyptians not to cooperate with the mission. 

Milner realized that a direct approach to Zaghlul was necessary, 
and in the summer of 1920 private talks between the two men took 
place in London. As a result of the so-called Milner-Zaghlul Agree- 
ment, the British government announced in February 1921 that 
it would accept the abolition of the protectorate as the basis for 
negotiation of a treaty with Egypt. 

On April 4, 1921, Zaghlul's return to Egypt was met by an un- 
precedented welcome, showing that the vast majority of Egyp- 
tians supported him. Allenby, however, was determined to break 
Zaghlul's political power and to build up a pro-British group to 
whom Britain could safely commit Egyptian independence. On De- 
cember 23, Zaghlul was deported to the Seychelles via Aden. His 
deportation was followed by demonstrations, violent clashes with 
the police, and strikes by students and government employees that 


Historical Setting 

affected Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said, Suez, and provincial towns 
like Tanta, Zifta, Az Zaqaziq, and Jirja. 

On February 28, 1922, Britain unilaterally declared Egyptian 
independence without any negotiations with Egypt. Four matters 
were "absolutely reserved to the discretion" of the British govern- 
ment until agreements concerning them could be negotiated: the 
security of communications of the British Empire in Egypt; the 
defense of Egypt against all foreign aggressors or interference, direct 
or indirect; the protection of foreign interests in Egypt and the pro- 
tection of minorities; and Sudan. Sultan Ahmad Fuad became King 
Fuad I, and his son, Faruk, was named as his heir. On April 19, 
a new constitution was approved. Also that month, an electoral 
law was issued that ushered in a new phase in Egypt's political 
development — parliamentary elections . 

The Era of Liberal Constitutionalism and Party Politics 
The Rise and Decline of the Wafd, 1924-39 

Political life in Egypt during this period has been described as 
basically triangular, consisting of the king, the Wafd, and the Brit- 
ish. The basis of British power was its army of occupation as well 
as British officials in the administration, police, and army. The 
king's power rested on the rights he could exercise in accordance 
with the 1923 constitution and partly on the permanence of his po- 
sition. The king's rights included selecting and appointing the prime 
minister, dismissing the cabinet, and dissolving Parliament. The 
Wafd's power was based on its popular support and its command 
of a vast majority in Parliament. 

These three forces in Egyptian politics were of unequal strength. 
The British had overwhelming power, and if their interests were 
at stake, their power prevailed over the other two. The king was 
in a stronger position than the Wafd because his power was difficult 
to curb while the Wafd could easily be removed from power. The 
Wafd embodied parliamentary democracy in Egypt; thus, by its 
very existence, it constituted a threat to both the king and the Brit- 
ish. To the king, any democratic system was a threat to his au- 
tocratic rule. To the British, a democratic system meant that in 
any free election the Wafd would be voted into power. The British 
believed that the Wafd in power was a threat to their own power 
in the country. Thus, the British attempted to destroy the power 
of the Wafd and to use the king as a counter to the Wafd. 

In the parliamentary election of January 12, 1924, the Wafd won 
179 of 21 1 parliamentary seats. Two seats each went to the Wafd's 
opponents, the National Party and the Liberal Constitutionalist 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Party, a party founded in 1922 and considered excessively cooper- 
ative with the British. The Wafd felt it had a mandate to conclude 
a treaty with Britain that would assure Egypt complete indepen- 
dence. As prime minister, Zaghlul carefully selected a cross-section 
of Egyptian society for his cabinet, which he called the "People's 
Ministry." On March 15, 1924, the king opened the first Egyp- 
tian constitutional parliament amid national rejoicing. The Waf- 
dist government did not last long, however. 

On November 19, 1924, Sir Lee Stack, the British governor 
general of Sudan and commander of the Egyptian army, was as- 
sassinated in Cairo. The assassination was one of a series of kill- 
ings of British officials that had begun in 1920. Allenby, who 
considered Stack an old and trusted friend, was determined to 
avenge the crime and in the process humiliate the Wafd and de- 
stroy its credibility in Egypt. Allenby demanded that Egypt apolo- 
gize, prosecute the assailants, pay a £500,000 indemnity, withdraw 
all troops from Sudan, consent to an unlimited increase of irriga- 
tion in Sudan and end all opposition to the capitulations (Britain's 
demand of the right to protect foreign interests in the country). 
Zaghlul wanted to resign rather than accept the ultimatum, but 
Allenby presented it to him before Zaghlul could offer his resigna- 
tion to the king. Zaghlul and his cabinet decided to accept the first 
four terms but to reject the last two. On November 24, after or- 
dering the Ministry of Finance to pay the indemnity, Zaghlul 
resigned. He died three years later. 

During the 1930s, Ismail Sidqi emerged as the "strong man" 
of Egyptian politics and an ardent opponent of the Wafd. It was 
he who abolished the constitution in 1930 and drafted another that 
enhanced the power of the monarch. He formed his own party, 
Al Hizb ash Shaab, which merged with the Ittihad Party in 1938. 
Also in 1938, dissident members of the Wafd formed the Saadist 
Party, named after Saad Zaghlul. 

On April 28, 1936, King Fuad died and was succeeded by his 
son, Faruk. In the May elections, the Wafd won 89 percent of the 
vote and 157 seats in Parliament. 

Negotiations with the British for a treaty to resolve matters that 
had been left outstanding since 1922 had resumed. The British dele- 
gation was led by its high commissioner, Miles Lampson, and the 
Egyptian delegation by Wafdist leader and prime minister, Mustafa 
Nahhas. On August 26, a draft treaty that came to be known as 
the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936 was signed. 

The treaty provided for an Anglo-Egyptian military and defense 
alliance that allowed Britain to maintain a garrison of 10,000 men 
in the Suez Canal Zone. In addition, Britain was left in virtual 


Historical Setting 

control of Sudan. This contradicted the Anglo-Egyptian Con- 
dominium Agreement of 1899 that provided that Sudan be governed 
by Egypt and Britain jointly. In spite of the agreement, however, 
real power was in British hands. Egyptian army units had been 
withdrawn from Sudan in the aftermath of the Stack assassination, 
and the governor general was British. Nevertheless, Egyptian na- 
tionalists, and the Wafd particularly, continued to demand full 
Egyptian control of Sudan. 

The treaty did provide for the end of the capitulations and the 
phasing out of the mixed courts. The British high commissioner 
was redesignated ambassador to Egypt, and when the British in- 
spector general of the Egyptian army retired, an Egyptian officer 
was appointed to replace him. 

In spite of these advances, the treaty did not give Egypt full in- 
dependence, and its signing produced a wave of anti-Wafdist and 
anti-British demonstrations. To many of its followers, in negotiat- 
ing and signing the treaty the Wafd had betrayed the nationalist 
cause. Because of this perception and also because it had failed to 
develop and implement a program for social and economic reform, 
the Wafd declined in power and influence. Although it considered 
itself the representative of the nation, the Wafd failed to offer 
meaningful domestic programs to deal with the problems of under- 
and unemployment, high living costs, lack of industrial develop- 
ment, and unequal distribution of land. Thus, during the 1930s, 
support for the Wafd, particularly among students and urban 
middle-class professionals and civil servants, was eroded by more 
militant, paramilitary organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood 
(Al Ikhwan al Muslimun, also known as the Brotherhood) and 
Young Egypt (Misr al Fatat). 

The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 by religious leader 
Hasan al Banna who established himself as the supreme guide lead- 
ing his followers in a purified Islamic state. The Brotherhood 
represented a trend in the Islamic reform movement that attribut- 
ed the difficulties in Islamic society to a deviation from the ideals 
and practices of early Islam during the period of the first four 
caliphs. The aim, therefore, was to return society to a state of pu- 
rity by reforming it from within and purging it of foreign domina- 
tion and influence. The Brotherhood consisted of nationwide cells, 
battalions, youth groups, and a secret apparatus for underground 

Young Egypt was founded in 1933 by a lawyer, Ahmad Hu- 
sayn. It was a radical nationalist organization with religious ele- 
ments. Its aim was to make Egypt a great empire, which would 
consist of Egypt and Sudan. The empire would act as an ally to 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Arab countries and serve as the leader of Islam. It was also a 
militaristic organization whose young members were organized in 
a paramilitary movement called the Green Shirts. The organiza- 
tion had fascist overtones and openly admired Nazi achievements. 
As German power grew, Young Egypt's anti-British tone increased. 

Both of these organizations presented clearly defined programs 
for political, economic, and social reform. Both also represented 
a new political movement whose ideology was not the liberal con- 
stitutionalism of the nationalist movement, which was regarded as 
having failed. 

Egypt During the War, 1939-45 

With the beginning of World War II, Egypt again became vital 
to Britain's defense. Britain had to assure, if not the wholehearted 
support of Egypt, at least its acquiescence in British military and 
political policies during the crisis. For its part, Egypt considered 
the war a European conflict and hoped to avoid being entangled 
in it. As one Axis victory succeeded another, Egyptians grew in- 
creasingly convinced that Germany would win the war. Some were 
pleased at the prospect of a German victory, not because they were 
attracted to the Nazi ideology, but because they viewed any ene- 
my of their enemy, Britain, as a friend. Meanwhile, the British 
were determined to prevent an Egyptian-German alliance. 

The war gave the Wafd the opportunity to return to power. The 
Wafd set out to convince the British that they would not lead an 
anti-British insurrection during the wartime crisis. Uncertain of 
the loyalty of Prime Minister Ali Mahir and convinced that the 
king was intriguing against them, the British decided to entrust 
the Egyptian government to the Wafd. On February 2, 1942, with 
the German army under General Erwin Rommel advancing toward 
Egypt, Lampson, the British ambassador, ordered the king to ask 
Mustafa Nahhas, the Wafdist leader, to form a government. The 
incident clearly demonstrated that real power in Egypt resided in 
British hands and that the king and the political parties existed only 
so long as Britain was prepared to tolerate them. It also eroded 
popular support for the Wafd because it showed that the Wafd 
would make an alliance with the British for purely political rea- 
sons. The Wafd's credibility was eroded further in 1943 when a 
disaffected former Wafd member, Makram Ubayd, published his 
Black Book. The book contained details of Nahhas 's corrupt deal- 
ings over the years and seriously damaged his reputation. 

The Wafdist government fell in 1944, and the Wafd boycotted 
the elections of 1945, which brought a government of Liberal Con- 
stitutionalists and Saadists to power. As World War II ended, the 


Wafd was splintered into several competing camps. The political 
initiative and popular support swung toward the militant organi- 
zations on the right, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Young 

On the Threshold of Revolution, 1945-52 

In 1945 a Labour Party government with anti-imperialist lean- 
ings was elected in Britain. This election encouraged Egyptians 
to believe that Britain would change its policy. The end of the war 
in Europe and the Pacific, however, saw the beginning of a new 
kind of global war, the Cold War, in which Egypt found itself em- 
broiled against its will. Concerned by the possibility of expansion 
by the Soviet Union, the West would come to see the Middle East 
as a vital element in its postwar strategy of "containment." In ad- 
dition, pro-imperialist British Conservatives like Winston Chur- 
chill spoke of Britain's "rightful position" in the Suez Canal Zone. 
He and Anthony Eden, the Conservative Party spokesman on for- 
eign affairs, stressed the vital importance of the Suez Canal as an 
imperial lifeline and claimed international security would be threat- 
ened by British withdrawal. 

In December 1945, Egyptian prime minister Mahmud Nuqrashi, 
sent a note to the British demanding that they renegotiate the 1936 
treaty and evacuate British troops from the country. Britain re- 
fused. Riots and demonstrations by students and workers broke 


Egypt: A Country Study 

out in Cairo and Alexandria, accompanied by attacks on British 
property and personnel. 

The new Egyptian prime minister, Ismail Sidqi, a driving force 
behind Egyptian politics in the 1930s and now seventy-one and 
in poor health, took over negotiations with the British. The Brit- 
ish Labour Party prime minister, Clement Atlee, agreed to remove 
British troops from Egyptian cities and bases by September 1949. 
The British had withdrawn their troops to the Suez Canal Zone 
when negotiations foundered over the issue of Sudan. Britain said 
Sudan was ready for self-government while Egyptian nationalists 
were proclaiming "the unity of the Nile Valley," that is, that Sudan 
should be part of Egypt. Sidqi resigned in December 1946 and was 
succeeded by Nuqrashi, who referred the question of Sudan to the 
newly created United Nations (UN) during the following year. The 
Brotherhood called for strikes and a jihad (holy war) against the 
British, and newspapers called for a guerrilla war. 

In 1948 another event strengthened the Egyptian desire to rid 
the country of imperial domination. This event was the Declara- 
tion of the Establishment of the State of Israel by David Ben-Gurion 
in Tel Aviv. The Egyptians, like most Arabs, considered the State 
of Israel a creation of Western, specifically British, imperialism and 
an alien entity in the Arab homeland. In September 1947, the 
League of Arab States (Arab League) had decided to resist by force 
the UN plan for partition of Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish 
state. Thus, when Israel announced its independence in 1948, the 
armies of the various Arab states, including Egypt, entered Pales- 
tine to save the country for the Arabs against what they considered 
Zionist aggression. The Arabs were defeated by Israel, although 
the Arab Legion of Transjordan held onto the Old City of Jeru- 
salem and the West Bank (see Glossary), and Egypt saved a strip 
of territory around Gaza that became known as the Gaza Strip. 

When the war began, the Egyptian army was poorly prepared 
and had no plan for coordination with the other Arab states. 
Although there were individual heroic acts of resistance, the army 
did not perform well, and nothing could disguise the defeat or 
mitigate the intense feeling of shame. After the war, there were 
scandals over the inferior equipment issued to the military, and 
the king and government were blamed for treacherously abandoning 
the army. One of the men who served in the war was Gamal 
Abdul Nasser, who commanded an army unit in Palestine and was 
wounded in the chest. Nasser was dismayed by the inefficiency and 
lack of preparation of the army. In the batde for the Negev Desert 
in October 1948, Nasser and his unit were trapped at Falluja, near 


Historical Setting 

Beersheba. The unit held out and was eventually able to counter- 
attack. This event assumed great importance for Nasser, who saw 
it as a symbol of his country's determination to free Egypt from 
all forms of oppression, internal and external. 

Nasser organized a clandestine group inside the army called the 
Free Officers. After the war against Israel, the Free Officers be- 
gan to plan for a revolutionary overthrow of the government. In 
1949 nine of the Free Officers formed the Committee of the Free 
Officers' Movement; in 1950 Nasser was elected chairman. 

The Muslim Brotherhood, whose volunteer squads had fought 
well against Israel, gained in popularity and membership. Before 
the war, the Brotherhood was responsible for numerous attacks on 
British personnel and property. With the outbreak of the war against 
Israel, martial law was declared in Egypt, and the Brotherhood 
was ordered to dissolve. In retaliation, a member of the Brother- 
hood murdered Nuqrashi, the prime minister. His successor, Ibra- 
him Abdul Hadi, detained in concentration camps thousands of 
Brotherhood members as well as members of Young Egypt and 
communists. In February 1949, Brotherhood founder Hassan al 
Banna was assassinated, probably by agents of the security branch 
of the government. 

In January 1950, the Wafd returned to power with Nahhas as 
prime minister. In October 1951, Nahhas introduced, and Parlia- 
ment approved, decrees abrogating unilaterally the Anglo-Egyptian 
Treaty of 1936 and proclaiming Faruk king of Egypt and Sudan. 
Egypt exulted, with newspapers proclaiming that Egypt had broken 
"the fetters of British imperialism." The Wafd government gave 
way to pressure from the Brotherhood and leftist groups for mili- 
tant opposition to the British. "Liberation battalions" were formed, 
and the Brotherhood and auxiliary police were armed. Food sup- 
plies to the Suez Canal Zone were blocked, and Egyptian workers 
were withdrawn from the base. A guerrilla war against the British 
in the Suez Canal Zone was undertaken by students and the 

In December British bulldozers and Centurion tanks demolished 
fifty Egyptian mud houses to open a road to a water supply for 
the British army. This incident and one that followed on January 
25 provoked intense Egyptian anger. On January 25, 1952, the 
British attacked an Egyptian police barracks at Ismailiya (Al Is- 
mailiyah) when its occupants refused to surrender to British troops. 
Fifty Egyptians were killed and 100 wounded. 

The January incident led directly to "Black Saturday," Janu- 
ary 26, 1952, which began with a mutiny by police in Cairo in 
protest against the death of their colleagues. Concurrently, groups 


Egypt: A Country Study 

of people in Cairo went on a rampage. British property and other 
symbols of the Western presence were attacked. By the end of the 
day, 750 establishments valued at £50 million had been burned 
or destroyed. Thirty persons were killed, including eleven British 
and other foreigners; hundreds were injured. 

The British believed there was official connivance in the riot- 
ing. Wafdist interior minister Fuad Siraj ad Din (also seen as Se- 
rag al Din) was accused of negligence by an Egyptian government 
report and dismissed. The king dismissed Nahhas, and four prime 
ministers held office in the next six months. It became clear that 
the Egyptian ruling class had become unable to rule, and none of 
the radical nationalist groups was strong enough to take power. 
This power vacuum gave the Free Officers their opportunity. 

On July 22, the Free Officers realized that the king might be 
preparing to move against them. They decided to strike and seize 
power the next morning. On July 26, King Faruk, forced to abdi- 
cate in favor of his infant son, sailed into exile on the same yacht 
on which his grandfather, Ismail, had left for exile about seventy 
years earlier. 

The Revolution and the Early Years of the New Government, 

The nine men who had constituted themselves as the Committee 
of the Free Officers' Movement and led the 1952 Revolution were 
Lieutenant Colonel Gamal Abdul Nasser, Major Abd al Hakim 
Amir, Lieutenant Colonel Anwar as Sadat, Major Salah Salim, 
Major Kamal ad Din Husayn, Wing Commander Gamal Salim, 
Squadron Leader Hasan Ibrahim, Major Khalid Muhi ad Din, 
and Wing Commander Abd al Latif al Baghdadi. Major Husayn 
ash Shafii and Lieutenant Colonel Zakariyya Muhi ad Din joined 
the committee later. 

After the coup, the Free Officers asked Ali Mahir, a previous 
prime minister, to head the government. The Free Officers formed 
the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), which dictated policy 
to the civilian cabinet, abolished all civil tides such as pasha and 
bey, and ordered all political parties to purify their ranks and recon- 
stitute their executive committees. 

The RCC elected Muhammad Naguib president and commander 
in chief. He was chosen because he was a popular hero of the 1948 
Arab-Israeli War and an officer trusted by the army. In 1951 the 
Free Officers had elected him as president of the Egyptian Army 
Officers Club over the candidate chosen by Faruk. It was extremely 
important for the Free Officers to ensure the loyalty of the army 


Historical Setting 

if the coup were to succeed. Naguib was fifty-one years old; the 
average age of the other Free Officers was thirty-three. 

The decision made by the Wafd government after the Anglo- 
Egyptian Treaty of 1936 to allow sons of nonaristocratic families 
into the Military Academy had proved an important one for the 
future of Egypt. It meant that men such as Nasser and Sadat were 
able to become officers in the army and thus be in a position to 
shape events in Egypt. The decision had been made, not to create 
a more egalitarian officer corps, but rather to meet a desperate need 
for more officers. As it turned out, most members of the Free 
Officers' group and all of the original members of the RCC had 
entered the Military Academy during the period between 1937 and 
1940. The men who profited from this new policy were not from 
the poorest families; their families had to have enough money to 
send their children to secondary schools. For the most part, they 
were from families of moderately prosperous landholders and minor 
government officials, who constituted the class of rural notables. 

Nasser himself came from a rural notable family. His father was 
from a small village in Upper Egypt and worked as a postal clerk. 
In 1915 the senior Nasser moved to Alexandria, where on Janu- 
ary 15, 1918, his first son, Gamal, was born. At the age of seven, 
Gamal was sent to Cairo to live with his uncle and to attend school. 
He went to a school in Khan al Khalili, the old quarter of the city 
near Al Azhar mosque, where he experienced firsthand the bustiing, 
crowded quarters of Cairo and the poverty of many in the city. 
Between 1933 and 1938, he attended An Nahda (the Awakening) 
School in Cairo, where he combined studying with demonstrating 
against British and Egyptian politicians. In November 1935, he 
marched in demonstrations against the British and was wounded 
by a bullet fired by British troops. Identified as an agitator by the 
police, he was asked to leave his school. After a few months in law 
school, he joined the army. 

Nasser desired vehemently to change his country; he believed 
that the British and the British-controlled king and politicians would 
continue to harm the interests of the majority of the population. 
Nasser and the other Free Officers had no particular desire for a 
military career, but Nasser had perceived that military life offered 
upward mobility and a chance to participate in shaping the coun- 
try's future. The Free Officers were united by their desire to see 
Egypt freed of British control and a more equitable government 
established. Nasser and many of the others seemed to be attached 
to no particular political ideology, although some, such as Khalid 
Muhi ad Din, were Marxists and a few sympathized with the Mus- 
lim Brotherhood. The lack of a coherent ideology would cause 


Egypt: A Country Study 

difficulties in the future when these men set about the task of govern- 
ing Egypt. 

Although Naguib headed the RCC and Mahir the civilian 
government, Nasser was the real power behind the RCC. The years 
between 1952 and 1954 witnessed a struggle for control of the 
government that Nasser ultimately won. The first crisis to face the 
new government came in August 1952 with a violent strike involving 
more than 10,000 workers at the Misr Company textile factories 
at Kafr ad Dawwar in the Delta. Workers attacked and set fire 
to part of the premises, destroyed machinery, and clashed with the 
police. The army was called in to put down the strike; several work- 
ers lost their lives, and scores were injured. The RCC set up a 
special military court that tried the arrested textile workers. Two 
were convicted and executed, and many others were given prison 
sentences. The regime reacted quickly and ruthlessly because it 
had no intention of encouraging a popular revolution that it could 
not control. It then arrested about thirty persons charged with be- 
longing to the outlawed Communist Party of Egypt (CPE). The 
Democratic Movement for National Liberation, a faction of the 
CPE, reacted by denouncing the regime as a military dictatorship. 

On September 7, Ali Mahir resigned, and Naguib became prime 
minister, minister of war, commander in chief, and president of 
the RCC. That same month, the RCC passed its first major domes- 
tic measure, the Agrarian Reform Law of 1952. The law was in- 
tended to abolish the power of the absentee landlord class, to 
encourage investment in industry, and to build support for the re- 
gime. The law limited landholdings to 200 feddans with the right 
to transfer another 100 to wives and children. The owners of the 
land requisitioned by the government received about half the market 
value of the land at 1951 prices in the form of government bonds. 
The land was sold in lots of two to five feddans to tenants and small 
farmers owning less than five feddans. The small farmers had to 
buy the lots at a price equal to the compensation paid to the form- 
er owner. 

The RCC also dealt with labor legislation and education. Ini- 
tial legislation raised minimum wages, reduced working hours, and 
created more jobs to reduce unemployment. Enforcement of these 
measures was lax until the early 1960s, however. In another effort 
to reduce unemployment, the RCC instituted a policy of provid- 
ing employment in government service for all university gradu- 
ates, a practice that swelled the ranks of the bureaucracy and left 
many skilled people underused. The government increased its 
spending on education with the goal of educating all citizens. Rent 
control was established, and the government undertook construction 


Historical Setting 

of housing for workers. These programs were expanded in the 

On January 17, 1953, all political parties were dissolved and 
banned. A three-year transition period was proclaimed during which 
the RCC would rule. On February 10, the Liberation Rally head- 
ed by Nasser was launched to serve as an organization for the 
mobilization of popular support for the new government. On June 
18, Egypt was declared a republic, and the monarchy was abolished, 
ending the rule of Muhammad Ali's dynasty. Naguib became the 
first president and also prime minister. Nasser became deputy prime 
minister and minister of interior. Other officers took over other 

Between 1952 and 1954, there was a struggle between Naguib 
and Nasser and his colleagues on the RCC for control of the govern- 
ment and over the future form of the government. Naguib was to 
have one vote on the council and was responsible for carrying out 
council decisions. He enjoyed considerable popularity, and he de- 
veloped his own following after conflicts involving policies arose 
between him and the RCC. The conflicts came to a head on Febru- 
ary 23, 1954 when Naguib resigned. The RCC may have been 
relieved at this decision, but the popular outcry was so great that 
Naguib was reinstated as president of the republic. Nasser, however, 
took the position of prime minister, previously held by Naguib, 
and remained president of the RCC. 

As soon as the Free Officers came to power, their immediate 
and major concern was the evacuation of Britain from Egypt. At 
first, the Free Officers feared that the British from their garrison 
in the Suez Canal Zone might try to intervene on behalf of the 
king. However, the British made it clear that they would not in- 
terfere on behalf of the king nor take any action unless British lives 
were threatened. Achieving the evacuation of the British, however, 
involved two contentious issues — Sudan and the Suez Canal. Sudan 
proved to be the easier to resolve. In February 1953, the Egyptian 
government agreed to a plan for self-determination for Sudan to 
be implemented over a three-year period. The Sudanese opted for 
independence rather than union with Egypt. 

The issue of the Suez Canal was more complex and linked to 
Britain's desire to involve Egypt in the West's Cold War with the 
Soviet Union. As early as September 1952, the British government 
announced that there was no strategic alternative to the maintenance 
of the British base in the canal area. In the opinion of Anthony 
Eden, British foreign secretary, Egypt had to fit into a regional 
defense system, the Baghdad Pact, and agreement on this point 
would have to precede any withdrawal from the canal. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

This was the period of pacts directed against the Soviet Union. 
The North Adantic Treaty Organization and Southeast Asia Treaty 
Organization were supposed to contain the Soviet Union in the 
west and east. The Baghdad Pact, bringing into alliance Britain, 
Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and Iraq, was supposed to do the same 
on the Soviet Union's southern borders. The British government 
was attempting to force Egypt to join the alliance by refusing to 
discuss evacuation of the Suez Canal base until Egypt agreed. 

Egypt, however, would discuss only evacuation and eventual ad- 
ministration of the base, and the British slowly realized the draw- 
backs of holding the base without Egyptian acquiescence. By 
October 1954, Nasser signed an agreement providing for the with- 
drawal of all British troops from the base within twenty months, 
with the provision that the British base could be reactivated in the 
event of an attack on Egypt by an outside power or an Arab League 
state or an attack on Turkey. 

The agreement gained a mixed reception among Egyptians. 
Despite the enthusiasm for ending imperialism, there were those 
who criticized Nasser for rewriting the old treaty. Nasser's chief 
critics were the communists and the Brotherhood. It was while Nas- 
ser was justifying the canal agreement to a crowd in Alexandria 
on October 26, 1954 that a member of the Brotherhood attempted 
to kill him. The following day, in a show of courage, Nasser deliber- 
ately appeared before crowds in Alexandria, at stations en route 
to Cairo, and in the capital. In Cairo he was met by an estimated 
200,000 people, his popularity having been enormously strength- 
ened by this incident. 

Although the Muslim Brotherhood had a long history of anti- 
British and antiregime activities, its leaders stipulated that they 
would work with the Free Officers only if the officers would agree 
to Brotherhood objectives. Because the Brotherhood would not 
refrain from opposing the RCC, Nasser had outlawed the organi- 
zation in February 1954. Naguib had always had a certain sym- 
pathy for the Brotherhood, and its leaders implicated him in the 
attack on Nasser. It is doubtful that he had any connection with 
the attack, but it gave Nasser the pretext he needed to remove 
Naguib from the presidency, and he did so in November. 

In February 1955, Eden visited Cairo seeking again to persuade 
Nasser to join the Baghdad Pact. Nasser again refused. Many Egyp- 
tians were skeptical of Britain's intentions and believed that mem- 
bership in the pact would amount to trading one form of British 
domination for another. In addition, however, Nasser was increas- 
ingly attracted to the Nonaligned Movement that eschewed mem- 
bership in either the Western or the Soviet camp. Nasser was no 


Historical Setting 

particular friend of the Soviet Union, and the Communist Party 
remained outlawed in Egypt. It was Western imperialism and 
colonialism, however, that Egypt had been struggling against. 

Nasser also had become an admirer and friend of President Mar- 
shal Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia and Prime Minister Jawaharlal 
Nehru of India. Tito had survived by aligning himself neither with 
the West nor with the Soviet Union. Together, he and Nasser de- 
veloped the concept of nonalignment, which entailed avoiding both 
pro- and anti- Soviet pacts but did not prevent them from purchasing 
arms or receiving aid from either bloc. Nevertheless, the West, par- 
ticularly the United States, expected Third World countries to sup- 
port the West in return for both arms and aid, as Nasser was soon 
to learn. 

A turning point for Nasser was the Conference of the Nonaligned 
Movement in Bandung, Indonesia in April 1955. There he found 
himself the center of attention as a Third World leader, accepted 
as a colleague by Chinese premier Zhou Enlai, and greeted by 
crowds in the streets. Egyptian participation in the conference, along 
with other former colonies such as India, symbolized not only the 
new postcolonial world order but also Egypt's own independence. 

Another turning point for Nasser came in February 1955 when 
he became convinced that Egypt had to arm to defend itself against 
Israel. This decision put him on a collision course with the West 
that ended on the batdefields of Suez a year later. In February 1955, 
the Israeli army attacked Egyptian military outposts in Gaza. 
Thirty-nine Egyptians were killed. Until then, this had been Isra- 
el's least troublesome frontier. Since the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli 
War, Egypt's leaders, from King Faruk to Nasser, had avoided 
militant attitudes on the grounds that Israel should not distract 
Egypt from domestic problems. Nasser made no serious attempt 
to narrow Israel's rapidly widening armaments lead. He preferred 
to spend Egypt's meager hard currency reserves on development. 

Israel's raid on Gaza changed Nasser's mind, however. At first 
he sought Western aid, but he was rebuffed by the United States, 
France, and Britain. The United States government, especially the 
passionately anticommunist Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, 
clearly disapproved of Egypt's nonalignment and would make it 
difficult for Egypt to purchase arms. The French demanded that 
Egypt cease aiding the Algerian national movement, which was 
fighting for independence from France. The British warned Nas- 
ser that if he accepted Soviet weapons, none would be forthcom- 
ing from Britain. 

Rejected in this shortsighted way by the West, Nasser negotiat- 
ed the famous arms agreement with Czechoslovakia in September 


Egypt: A Country Study 

1955. This agreement marked the Soviet Union's first great break- 
through in its effort to undermine Western influence in the Mid- 
dle East. Egypt received no arms from the West and eventually 
became dependent on arms from the Soviet Union. 

Relations between Nasser and the West reached a crisis over plans 
to finance the Aswan High Dam. Construction of the dam was one 
of the earliest decisions of the Free Officers. It would increase both 
electrical generating power and irrigated land area. It would serve 
industry and agriculture and symbolize the new Egypt. The Unit- 
ed States agreed to give Egypt an unconditional loan of US$56 mil- 
lion, and Britain agreed to lend Egypt US$14. The British loan 
was contingent on the American loan. The World Bank (see Glos- 
sary) also agreed to lend Egypt an additional US$200 million. The 
World Bank loan stipulated that Egypt's budget be supervised by 
World Bank officials. To Nasser these conditions were insulting 
and were reminiscent of Europe's control over Egypt's finances 
in the 1870s. 

While Nasser admitted to doubts about the West's sincerity, the 
United States became incensed over Egypt's decision to recognize 
communist China. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union was offering aid 
to Egypt in several forms, including a loan to finance the Aswan 
High Dam. Then, on July 19, the United States withdrew its loan 
offer, and Britain and the World Bank followed suit. Nasser was 
returning to Cairo from a meeting with President Tito and Prime 
Minister Nehru when he heard the news. He was furious and decid- 
ed to retaliate with an action that shocked the West and made him 
the hero of the Arabs. 

On July 26, 1956, the fourth anniversary of King Faruk's exile, 
Nasser appeared in Muhammad Ali Square in Alexandria where 
twenty months earlier an assassin had attempted to kill him. An 
immense crowd gathered, and he began a three-hour speech from 
a few notes jotted on the back of an envelope. When Nasser said 
the code word, "de Lesseps," it was the signal for engineer Mah- 
mud Yunis to begin the takeover of the Suez Canal. 

The canal's owner was the Suez Canal Company, an interna- 
tional company with headquarters in Paris. Anthony Eden, then 
British prime minister, called the nationalization of the canal 
"theft," and United States secretary of state Dulles said Nasser 
would have to be made to "disgorge" it. The French and British 
depended heavily on the canal for transporting oil supplies, and 
they felt that Nasser had become a threat to their remaining in- 
terests in the Middle East and Africa. Eden wanted to launch a 
military action immediately but was informed that Britain was not 
in a position to do so. Both France and Britain froze Egyptian 


Historical Setting 

assets in their countries and increased their military preparedness 
in the eastern Mediterranean. 

Egypt promised to compensate the stockholders of the Suez Canal 
Company and to guarantee right of access to all ships, so it was 
difficult for the French and British to rally international support 
to regain the canal by force. The Soviet Union, its East European 
allies, and Third World countries generally supported Egypt. The 
United States moved farther away from Britain and stated that while 
it opposed the nationalization of the canal, it was against the use 
of force. 

What followed was the invasion of Egypt by Britain, France, 
and Israel, an action known as the Tripartite Invasion or the 1956 
War. Whereas the truth about the invasion eventually became 
known, at the time the Conservative government in London de- 
nied that it used Israel as an excuse for attacking Egypt. Eden, 
who had an intense personal dislike for Nasser, concealed the 
cooperation with Israel from his colleagues, British diplomats, and 
the United States. 

The plan, which was supposed to enable Britain and France to 
gain physical control of the canal, called for Israel to attack across 
the Sinai Desert. When Israel neared the canal, Britain and France 
would issue an ultimatum for an Egyptian and Israeli withdrawal 
from both sides of the canal. An Anglo-French force would then 
occupy the canal to prevent further fighting and to keep it open 
to shipping. Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion agreed to 
the plan but informed Britain that Israel would not attack unless 
Britain and France first destroyed the Egyptian air force. 

On October 28, Israeli troops crossed the frontier into the Sinai 
Peninsula (also seen as Sinai), allegedly to destroy the bases of Egyp- 
tian commandos. The first sign of collusion between Israel and Brit- 
ain and France came on the same day when the Anglo-French 
ultimatum was handed to Egypt and Israel before Israel had even 
reached the canal. British bombing destroyed the Egyptian air force, 
and British and French paratroopers were dropped over Port Said 
and Port Fuad. The Egyptians put up fierce resistance. Ships were 
sunk in the canal to prevent transit. In the battle for Port Said, 
about 2,700 Egyptian civilians and soldiers were killed or wound- 
ed (see The 1956 War, ch. 5). 

Although it was invaded and occupied for a time, Egypt can claim 
to have emerged the victor. There was almost universal condem- 
nation of the Tripartite Invasion. The Soviet Union threatened 
Britain and France with a rocket attack if they did not withdraw. 
The United States, angered because it had not been informed by 
its allies of the invasion, realized it could not allow the Soviet 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Union to appear as the champion of the Third World against 
Western imperialism. Thus, the United States put pressure on the 
British and French to withdraw. Faced with almost total opposi- 
tion to the invasion, the anger of the United States, and the threat 
of the collapse of the pound sterling, the British agreed to with- 
draw. Severely condemned, Britain and France accepted a cease- 
fire on November 6, as their troops were poised to advance the 
length of the canal. The final evacuation took place on December 22. 

Israel, which occupied all of Sinai, was reluctant to withdraw. 
President Dwight D. Eisenhower of the United States placed great 
pressure on Israel to give up all its territorial acquisitions and even 
threatened sanctions. The Israelis did withdraw from Sinai, but 
they carried out a scorched earth policy, destroying roads, railroads, 
and military installations as they went. 

A United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) was established and 
began arriving in Egypt on November 21. The troops were sta- 
tioned on the Egyptian side of the Egyptian-Israeli border as well 
as along the eastern coast of Sinai. Israel refused to allow UN troops 
on its territory. The UN troops were stationed on the Gulf of Aqaba 
to ensure the free passage of Israeli shipping to Elat. The troops 
remained in Egypt until 1967, when their removal contributed to 
the outbreak of the June 1967 War. 

Egypt reopened the canal to shipping in April and ran it smooth- 
ly. It was open to all ships except those of Israel, and it remained 
open until the June 1967 War (Arab-Israeli war, also known as 
the Six-Day War). Diplomatic relations between Egypt and Brit- 
ain were not restored until 1969. 

Nasser had won a significant victory. The immediate effect was 
that Britain and France were finally out of Egypt. Nasser went on 
to nationalize all other British and French assets in Egypt. The 
Egyptians now had full control of the canal and its revenues. The 
Suez crisis also made Nasser the hero of the Arab world, a man 
who had stood up to Western imperialism and had prevailed. 

In response to his increased prestige, Nasser emphasized the Arab 
character of Egypt and its leadership role in the Arab world. He 
had always had a concern for Arab causes, as shown by his volun- 
teering to fight in Palestine in 1948, but now this tendency was 
amplified. His Egyptian nationalism became Arab nationalism 
when he decided that if the Arab countries worked together, they 
would have the resources to solve their individual problems. In ad- 
dition, the move toward nationalization, which started with French 
and British assets, continued in Egypt and became a cornerstone 
of Nasser's administration. 


Temple of Hathor, Dendera (Dandarah ), Ptolemaic period, 305-30 B. C. 

Courtesy Boris Boguslavsky 

Another result of the 1956 events was the increased Soviet in- 
fluence in Egypt stemming from the Soviet financing of the Aswan 
High Dam construction and Soviet arms sales to Egypt. Thus, 
Egypt became the cornerstone of the Soviet Union's Middle East 

Egypt and the Arab World 

For a variety of conflicting reasons, the political leaders of Syria 
in January 1958 asked Nasser for a union between their two coun- 
tries. Nasser was skeptical at first and then insisted on strict con- 
ditions for union, including a complete union rather than a federal 
state and the abolition of the Baath (Arab Socialist Resurrection) 
Party, then in power, and all other Syrian political parties. Be- 
cause the Syrians believed that Nasser's ideas represented their own 
goals and that they would play a large role in the union, they agreed 
to the conditions. A plebiscite was held in both countries in 1958, 
and Nasser was elected president. Cairo was designated the capi- 
tal of the United Arab Republic. Nasser then visited Damascus, 
where he received a tumultuous welcome. Arabs everywhere felt 
a new sense of pride. 

Several Arab governments viewed Nasser with less enthusiasm, 
however. The conservative monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Jordan 


Egypt: A Country Study 

saw his ideas as a potential threat to their own power. Nasser regard- 
ed these monarchs as reactionaries and as obstacles to Arab unity. 
The United States moved to strengthen these regimes as well as 
the government of Lebanon in an effort to offset the influence of 

The hastily conceived union of Syria and Egypt did not last long. 
There were too many problems to overcome: the two countries were 
not contiguous, their economies and populations were different, 
and the Syrian elite deeply resented being made subservient to 
Egyptian dictates. The deciding factor for the Syrian upper and 
middle classes came in July 1961 when Nasser issued the so-called 
"socialist decrees" that called for widespread nationalizations. This 
was followed by the elimination of local autonomy and a plan for 
the unification of Egyptian and Syrian currencies, a move that 
would deal the final blow to Syrian economic independence. 

There was also resentment in the army that paralleled the resent- 
ment in civilian circles. On September 28, a group of army officers 
called the High Arab Revolutionary Command staged a success- 
ful coup and proclaimed the separation of Syria from Egypt. Nasser 
decided not to resist and ordered his troops to surrender. He blamed 
Syria's defection on "reactionaries" and "agents of imperialism." 

During the same period, Egypt attempted a separate union with 
Yemen. This federation, called the United Arab States, fared no 
better than the Syrian one. In December 1961, Nasser formally 
ended it. In 1962 a military coup overthrew the royalist govern- 
ment in Yemen. Nasser intervened to support the new republican 
government against the Saudi Arabia-backed royalists, who were 
attempting to regain control. This undertaking proved to be a great 
drain on Egypt's financial and military resources. At the height 
of its involvement, Egypt had 75,000 troops in Yemen. Egypt's 
intervention also increased inter- Arab tensions, especially between 
Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Egypt's defeat at the hands of Israel in 
the June 1967 War obliged it to withdraw its forces from Yemen 
and to seek peace. A settlement was achieved at a conference in 
Khartoum in 1967. 

Nasser and Arab Socialism 

Nasser concentrated on implementing his doctrine of Arab so- 
cialism internally, especially after the break with Syria. The Na- 
tional Charter, essentially drawn up by Nasser, was promulgated 
in 1962. It established the basis of authority for the new constitu- 
tion that was to follow. It showed a change in orientation from the 
nationalist goals of the original revolution and emphasized that 
Egypt was an Arab nation based on Islamic principles. In addition, 


Historical Setting 

the Arab Socialist Union (ASU) was created to be the sole politi- 
cal party and a means of gathering the support of the masses. 

In July on the ninth anniversary of the 1952 coup, Nasser an- 
nounced a list of nationalizations that cut more deeply into the pri- 
vate sector than had occurred in any country outside of Eastern 
Europe. The decrees nationalized all private banks, all insurance 
companies, and fifty shipping companies and firms in heavy and 
basic industries. Eighty-three companies were obliged to sell 50 
percent or more of their shares to public agencies. A second agrarian 
reform law lowered the limit for an individual owner from 200 to 
100 feddans. The nationalization program continued in successive 
waves through 1962 and 1963 and involved shipping companies, 
cotton- ginning factories, cotton-exporting companies, pharmaceutical 
producers, ocean and river transport companies, trucking compa- 
nies, glass factories, and the largest book-publishing company in 
Egypt. Between 1952 and 1966, £E7 billion (for value of the Egyp- 
tian pound, see Glossary) in shared and public assets were trans- 
ferred to public ownership (see The Role of Government, ch. 3). 

The decrees also included legislation such as taxing gross incomes 
over £E5,000 at the rate of 90 percent, limiting base salaries of 
public sector directors to £E5,000, and limiting membership on 
all boards of directors to seven persons, two of whom must be work- 
ers. All joint- stock companies were required to place 5 percent of 
all profits in government bonds and to allot 1 percent to workers 
in cash and 15 percent to worker housing and community infra- 
structure. The work week was reduced to forty-two hours, and the 
minimum wage was raised. Half of all seats in Parliament and on 
all elective bodies and worker-management boards were reserved 
for peasants and workers. 

Elections were held in March 1964 for a new National Assem- 
bly from a list of candidates drawn up by the ASU. Immediately 
after the election, Nasser released a draft constitution that func- 
tioned until 1971. The constitution was based on the National 
Charter and emphasized freedom, socialism, and unity. 

The position of some minority groups changed during this peri- 
od. Most Jews left Egypt, the last large group being several thou- 
sand who did not have Egyptian citizenship and who were expelled 
during the Suez crisis. The Greek community also decreased con- 
siderably because many Greeks who did not like socialism returned 
to Greece. 

Egypt, the Arabs, and Israel 

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, the question of Israel be- 
came more vexing for the Arab states. In 1964, in spite of the 


Egypt: A Country Study 

problems that existed among the various Arab states, Nasser in- 
itiated Arab summit meetings that were held in January, March, 
and September in Cairo and Casablanca. The immediate reason 
for the summits was to find a way to block Israel's plan to divert 
the waters of the Jordan River to irrigate the Negev Desert, a plan 
that would deprive the lower Jordan River valley of water. The 
Arab states drew up a plan that called for diverting the Jordan River 
in Syria and Lebanon but did not implement it. 

The Arab summit meetings also took up other matters. League 
members agreed to created a unified military command, the United 
Arab Command, with headquarters in Cairo, but this plan, like 
that of diverting the Jordan River, remained on paper. The Arab 
leaders did implement a plan to create the Palestine Liberation Or- 
ganization (PLO) to be the primary organization of Palestinians. 
The Arab governments, especially Egypt, were becoming increas- 
ingly uneasy about the growing activities of Palestinian guerrillas, 
and they wanted to create an organization through which they could 
control such operations. They created the Palestine Liberation 
Army, whose units would be stationed and controlled by Egypt, 
Syria, and Iraq. Egypt exercised control of the PLO until 1969 
when Yasir Arafat, the leader of the guerrilla organization called 
Al Fatah, took control of the organization from Ahmad Shukairy, 
the choice of the Arab League governments. 

The War with Israel, 1967 

During the mid-1960s, tensions between the Arab states and Is- 
rael increased. In November 1966, Egypt and Syria signed a five- 
year defense pact. In the same month, Israeli forces crossed into 
the West Bank of Jordan to destroy the village of As Samu in retali- 
ation for increasing Palestinian guerrilla raids. In 1967 Israeli lead- 
ers repeatedly threatened to invade Syria and overthrow the Syrian 
government if guerrilla raids across the Syrian border did not stop. 
In April 1967, there were serious Israeli- Syrian air clashes over 
Syrian air space. Israeli prime minister Levi Eshkol warned that 
Damascus could be occupied if necessary. 

The Soviet Union warned Egypt that they had information that 
the Israelis had mobilized two brigades on the frontier. Nasser react- 
ed by sending troops to the Israeli border, and Syria followed suit. 
The claim has been made that Nasser believed that the presence 
of Egyptian troops would deter the Israelis from attacking Syria. 
Israel responded by deploying its own forces. It was clear that it 
would be difficult for Egypt to come to Syria's aid according to 
the terms of their agreement because of an obstacle — the presence 


Historical Setting 

of UNEF troops, stationed on the Egyptian side of the Egyptian- 
Israeli border since the 1956 War. A great deal of pressure to re- 
move the troops had been put on Nasser by Arab critics such as 
King Hussein of Jordan and Crown Prince Faisal (Faisal ibn Abdul 
Aziz Al Saud) of Saudi Arabia, who accused him of not living 
up to his responsibilities as an Arab leader. He was accused of fail- 
ing to match words with deeds and of hiding behind the UN shield 
rather than thinking about liberating the Palestinian homeland. 

On May 16, Nasser made the move that led inexorably to war. 
He asked the UN to remove the UNEF from the Egyptian-Israeli 
frontier in Sinai. Once the UNEF was withdrawn, Nasser declared 
he was closing the Strait of Tiran, which connects the Gulf of Aqaba 
and the Red Sea, to Israeli shipping — a threat he never carried 
out. Israel, for its part, regarded the withdrawal of the UNEF troops 
as a hostile act and the closing of the strait as a casus belli. Mean- 
while, Jordan and Iraq signed defense agreements with Egypt. 

Field Marshal Amir, deputy supreme commander of the armed 
forces, and Shams ad Din Badran, the minister of defense, urged 
Nasser to strike first, saying the Egyptian army was strong enough 
to win. The Soviet Union and the United States urged Nasser not 
to go to war. Nasser publicly denied that Egypt would strike first 
and spoke of a negotiated peace if the Palestinians were allowed 
to return to their homeland and of a possible compromise over the 
Strait of Tiran. 

On the morning of June 5, Israel launched a full-scale attack 
on Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. In three hours, at least 300 of Egypt's 
430 combat aircraft were destroyed, many on the ground as the 
pilots did not have time to take off. Israeli ground forces started 
a lightning strike into Sinai and by June 8 had reached the Suez 
Canal (see The June 1967 War, ch. 5). On that day, both sides 
accepted a UN Security Council call for a cease-fire. By June 11, 
the Arab defeat was total; Israel now held all of historic Palestine, 
including the Old City of Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza 
Strip, as well as Sinai and part of the Golan Heights of Syria. 

The Aftermath of the War 

Internal Relations 

Egypt's losses in the war were enormous: approximately 10,000 
soldiers and 1,500 officers killed, 5,000 soldiers and 500 officers 
captured, 80 percent of military equipment destroyed. Sinai was 
under Israeli control, and the Suez Canal was blocked and closed 
to shipping. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

On June 9, Nasser spoke on television and took full responsibil- 
ity for the debacle. He resigned as president, but the Egyptian peo- 
ple poured into the streets to demonstrate their support for him. 
The cabinet and the National Assembly voted not to accept the 
resignation, and Nasser withdrew it. 

Soon after the cease-fire, there was a broad shake-up in the mili- 
tary and the government. Field Marshal Amir and Minister of 
Defense Badran, who had been chosen for the post by Amir, were 
forced to resign. General Muhammad Fawzi became commander 
in chief, and Nasser retained the position of supreme commander. 
On June 19, Nasser enlarged his political powers by assuming the 
role of prime minister. He named a twenty-eight-member cabinet 
and took control of the ASU as secretary general. Ali Sabri, the 
vice president and secretary general of the ASU until that time, 
was named deputy prime minister in the new cabinet. 

On August 25, 1967, Amir and fifty other high-ranking mili- 
tary and civilian officials were arrested and accused of plotting to 
overthrow Nasser. Approximately two weeks later, the government 
announced that Amir, who was once considered Nasser's closest 
associate among the Free Officers, had committed suicide by tak- 
ing poison while under house arrest. 

In March 1968, widespread demonstrations by students and work- 
ers broke out in Cairo, Alexandria, and the industrial town of 
Hulwan. The demonstrations were provoked by the decision of a 
military tribunal that convicted two air force commanders of negli- 
gence in the June 1967 War and acquitted two others. The demon- 
strators demanded stiffer sentences for the four officers. A sit-in 
by students at Cairo University ended only when the government 
promised to retry the officers and released arrested demonstrators. 

Although the decision of the military tribunal was the immedi- 
ate cause of the demonstrations, the underlying cause was popu- 
lar frustration with the government repression over the preceding 
sixteen years and the lack of popular participation in the govern- 
ment. Nasser declared his desire to satisfy popular demands and 
promised to present a plan of action. The new plan, approved by 
a referendum in May, called for a new constitution that would re- 
form the ASU, grant Parliament control over the government, and 
allow greater personal and press freedom. Popular elections were 
to be held for the National Assembly. 

Nasser's reform of the existing political system was instituted 
through the formulation of new laws and the election of new mem- 
bers to all of the organs of the ASU. This initial phase of his plan 
was completed during October 1968, with the election of the reor- 
ganized Supreme Executive Committee (SEC) of the ASU. Only 


Historical Setting 

eight people received the required majority of votes, and the elec- 
tion of the remaining two members was postponed. The SEC or- 
ganized itself into five permanent committees: political affairs, 
chaired by Anwar as Sadat; administration, chaired by Ali Sabri; 
internal affairs, chaired by Abdul Muhsin Abu an Nur; economic 
development, chaired by Muhammad Labib Shuqayr; and culture 
and information, chaired by Diya Muhammad Daud. Nasser head- 
ed the SEC, and its three remaining members were Husayn ash 
Shafii, General Muhammad Fawzi, and Kamal Ramzi Stinu. 

This reorganization proved unsatisfactory to those who had hoped 
for an expansion of freedom and democracy. Thus, in November, 
demonstrations broke out again with cries of "Nasser resign" 
reported. Several demonstrators were killed or wounded in clash- 
es with the police. Universities and secondary schools were again 
closed. The demonstrators were expressing popular frustration over 
the failure of the government to implement the program approved 
by the referendum. Nasser apparently was unwilling or unable to 
widen popular participation in the government. 

External Relations 

The first move of the Arabs after the June 1967 War was to hold 
a summit conference in Khartoum in September 1967. At that meet- 
ing, Nasser and Faisal came to an agreement: Nasser would stop 
his attempts to destabilize the Saudi regime, and in return Saudi 
Arabia would give Egypt the financial aid needed to rebuild its army 
and retake the territory lost to Israel. At the conference, the Arab 
leaders were united in their opposition to Israel and proclaimed 
what became known as "the three no's" of the Khartoum sum- 
mit: no peace with Israel, no negotiations, no recognition. 

At the UN in November, the Security Council unanimously 
adopted Resolution 242, which provided a framework for settle- 
ment of the June 1967 War. This resolution, still not implement- 
ed in 1990, declared that the acquisition of territory by force was 
unacceptable. The resolution called for Israel to withdraw "from 
territories occupied in the recent conflict," for the termination of 
the state of belligerency, and for the right of all states in the area 
"to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries." Free- 
dom of navigation through international waterways in the area was 
to be guaranteed, and a just settlement of the "refugee" problem 
was to be attained. 

Gunnar Jarring, a Swedish diplomat at the UN, started a series 
of journeys in the Middle East in an attempt to bring both sides 
together. In May 1968, Egypt agreed to accept the resolution if 
Israel agreed to evacuate all occupied areas. By accepting the 


Egypt: A Country Study 

resolution, Egypt for the first time implicitly recognized the exis- 
tence — and the right to continued existence — of Israel. In return 
Egypt gained a UN commitment to the restoration of Sinai. The 
PLO rejected the resolution because it referred to the Palestinians 
only as "refugees" and thus appeared to dismiss Palestinian demands 
for self-determination and national rights. Syria characterized the 
plan as a ''sellout" of Arafat and the PLO. The disagreement on 
that issue was compounded when, throughout 1969, tensions grew 
between the Lebanese government and Palestinian groups within 
Lebanon's borders, and serious clashes broke out. Syria condemned 
Lebanese action. Nasser invited both parties to Cairo, and an agree- 
ment was negotiated in November 1969 to end the hostilities. 

Israel rejected Jarring' s mission as meaningless, insisting that 
negotiations should precede any evacuation. Israel also objected 
to Nasser's support for the PLO, whose objective at the time was 
the establishment of a secular state in all "liberated" Palestinian 
territory. Nasser replied that if Israel refused to support Resolu- 
tion 242 while Egypt accepted it, he had no choice "but to sup- 
port courageous resistance fighters who want to liberate their land. ' ' 

The mutual frustration led to the outbreak of the so-called War 
of Attrition from March 1969 to August 1970. Hoping to use 
Egypt's superiority in artillery to cause unacceptable casualties to 
Israeli forces dug in along the canal, Nasser ordered Egyptian guns 
to begin a steady pounding of the Israeli positions. Israel respond- 
ed by constructing the Bar- Lev Line, a series of fortifications along 
the canal, and by using the one weapon in which it had absolute 
superiority, its air force, to silence the Egyptian artillery. Having 
accomplished this with minimal aircraft losses, Israel embarked on 
a series of deep penetration raids into the heartland of Egypt with 
its newly acquired American-made Phantom bombers. By Janu- 
ary 1970, Israeli planes were flying at will over eastern Egypt. 

To remedy this politically intolerable situation, Nasser flew to 
Moscow and asked the Soviet Union to establish an air defense 
system manned by Soviet pilots and antiaircraft forces protected 
by Soviet troops. To obtain Soviet aid, Nasser had to grant the 
Soviet Union control over a number of Egyptian airfields as well 
as operational control over a large portion of the Egyptian army. 
The Soviet Union sent between 10,000 and 15,000 Soviet troops 
and advisers to Egypt, and Soviet pilots flew combat missions. A 
screen of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) was set up, and Soviet pi- 
lots joined Egyptian ones in patrolling Egyptian air space. 

After the June 1967 War, the Soviet Union poured aid into Egypt 
to replace lost military equipment and rebuild the armed forces. 
However, by sending troops and advisers to Egypt and pilots to 


Historical Setting 

fly combat missions, the Soviet Union took a calculated risk of pos- 
sible superpower confrontation over the Middle East. This added 
risk occurred because the United States under the Nixon adminis- 
tration was supplying Israel with military aid and regarded Israel 
as a bulwark against Soviet expansion in the area. 

Many plans for peace were formulated and rejected, but on June 
25, 1970, the Rogers Plan, put forth by United States secretary 
of state William Rogers, started a dialogue that eventually led to 
the long-awaited cease-fire in the War of Attrition along the Suez 
Canal. Basically, the plan was a modification of Resolution 242. 
Shortly after the plan was announced, from June 29 to July 17, 
Nasser visited Moscow. Discussions were held on the Rogers Plan, 
a newly formed Moscow peace plan, and the future of Soviet- 
Egyptian relations. 

After his return to Egypt, Nasser declared a major policy shift 
based on his assertion that Egypt must be respected for doing what 
it could on its own because the other Arab states were not prepared 
to wage war with Israel. This policy shift set the stage for Egypt's 
acceptance of the Rogers Plan in July, to the surprise of Israel and 
the consternation of many Arab states that feared Egypt would sign 
a separate peace agreement with Israel. Jordan, however, followed 
Egypt's lead and accepted the plan. Israel accepted the plan in 

Egyptian-Israeli fighting halted along the Suez Canal on Au- 
gust 7, 1970, in accordance with the first phase of the plan, and 
a ninety-day truce began. Palestinian guerrilla groups in opposi- 
tion to the cease-fire continued to engage in small-scale actions on 
the Jordanian-Syrian-Lebanese fronts. 

PLO leader Arafat's open criticism of the parties accepting the 
truce led Nasser to close down the Voice of Palestine radio station 
in Cairo and to terminate most of the material support Egypt 
provided to the PLO. In addition, many PLO activists were ex- 
pelled from Egypt. Within a month, the guerrillas had effectively 
undermined progress on the Rogers Plan by a series of acts, in- 
cluding the hijacking of five international airplanes in early Sep- 
tember 1970, thus triggering the Jordanian civil war that month. 

King Hussein launched a major Jordanian military drive against 
the Jordan-based Palestinian guerrilla groups on September 14, 
partly out of fear that their attacks on Israel would sabotage the 
truce, but primarily because the guerrillas were becoming power- 
ful enough to challenge his government. Nasser's position on these 
events, as in the preceding year when hostilities broke out between 
the Palestinians and Lebanese, was based on a desire to stop any 
form of intra- Arab conflict. He was extremely angry when Syria 


Egypt: A Country Study 

sent an armored force into Jordan to support the guerrillas. The 
United States and Israel offered assistance to the beleaguered King 

Nasser called for a meeting in Cairo to stop the civil war. The 
Arab summit finally came about on September 26 after bloody mili- 
tary engagements in which Jordan decisively repulsed the Syrians 
and seemed to be defeating the PLO, although PLO forces were 
not pushed out of Jordan until July 1971. On September 27, 1970, 
Hussein and Arafat agreed to a fourteen-point cease-fire under 
Nasser's mediation, officially ending the war. 

The effort by Nasser to bring about this unlikely reconciliation 
between two bitter enemies was enormous. He was by then a tired 
and sick man. He had been suffering from diabetes since 1958 and 
from arteriosclerosis of the leg. He had treatment in the Soviet Un- 
ion, and his doctors had warned him to avoid physical and emo- 
tional strain. He had ignored their advice and suffered a heart attack 
in September 1969. The strain of the summit was too much. He 
felt ill at the airport on September 28 when bidding good-bye to 
Arab leaders and returned home to bed. He had another heart at- 
tack and died that afternoon. 

Nasser's Legacy 

When news of Nasser's death was announced, Egyptians took 
to the streets by the tens of thousands to express shock and grief 
at the death of their leader. In spite of the doubts that many Egyp- 
tians may have felt about the path on which Nasser had taken Egypt, 
the sense of loss was overwhelming, and there was great uncer- 
tainty about the future. It has been argued that Nasser's rule was 
not a great success; that there were almost as many landless peasants 
in 1970 as when the Free Officers took over in 1952 because it was 
the wealthier peasants who had profited and still controlled the vil- 
lages; that the army had done no better in 1967 after fifteen years 
of the revolution than it had done in 1948 or 1956; that nationali- 
zation had caused inefficiency and corruption; and, finally, that 
repression was so pervasive that Egyptians were less free than they 
had been in the past. 

It was under Nasser that Egypt finally succeeded in ridding it- 
self of the last vestiges of British imperialism; that Egypt attempt- 
ed to steer a middle course between the Western countries and the 
Soviet Union and its allies and in so doing became a founder of 
the Nonaligned Movement that exists to this day; that Egypt moved 
out of the isolation the British had imposed on the country and 
assumed a leadership position in the Arab world; and that Egypt 


Archaeological expedition of American Museum of Natural History, 1908 
Courtesy American Museum of Natural History 

became the "beating heart" of pan-Arabism and the symbol of 
renewed Arab pride. 

Internally, Nasser destroyed the political and economic power 
of the old feudal landowning class. Education and employment op- 
portunities were made available to all Egyptians regardless of class 
or sex. Women were encouraged to get an education and go to 
work as part of the national struggle for economic progress and 
development. After the revolution, women were at last granted the 
right to vote. Nasser emphasized social programs to improve the 
living and working conditions of the peasants and workers, such 
as the electrification of villages, worker housing, minimum wage 
laws, decreased working hours, and worker participation in manage- 
ment. Industrialization intensified, and the country became less 
dependent on the export of cotton. The economy grew at accepta- 
ble rates in spite of some problems. After the June 1967 War, 
however, the military expenditures began to absorb about 25 per- 
cent of Egypt's gross national product (GNP — see Glossary). Also, 
the population increase that had begun in the 1940s began to over- 
take the economic advances. 

It is true that Nasser never really opened up his rule to popular 
participation. He once admitted that he had become so used to 
conspiracy, by necessity, that he tended to see a conspiracy in 


Egypt: A Country Study 

everything, a view that prevented him from conducting an open 
rule. He wanted to establish a basis of support for his regime but 
one that would not require the regime to give significant power 
to the public (see The Presidency, ch. 4). He felt that an ideology 
such as socialism might accomplish this, but at the same time he 
feared that the commitment would be to the ideology and not to 
him. Thus, when Nasser died in 1970 he left behind an imperfect 
and unfinished revolution. 

Sadat Takes Over, 1970-73 

When Nasser died, it became apparent that his successor, An- 
war as Sadat, did not intend to be another Nasser. As Sadat's rule 
progressed, it became clear that his priority was solving Egypt's 
pressing economic problems by encouraging Western financial in- 
vestment. Sadat realized, however, that Western investment would 
not be forthcoming until there was peace between Egypt and Is- 
rael, Soviet influence was eliminated, and the climate became more 
favorable to Western capitalism. 

Sadat was a Free Officer who had served as secretary of the Is- 
lamic Congress and of the National Union and as speaker of the 
National Assembly. In 1969 he was appointed vice president and 
so became acting president on Nasser's death. On October 3, 1970, 
the ASU recommended that Sadat be nominated to succeed Nas- 
ser as president. An election was held on October 15, and Sadat 
won more than 90 percent of the vote. Almost no one expected 
that Sadat would be able to hold power for long. Sadat was consid- 
ered a rather weak and colorless figure who would last only as long 
as it would take for the political maneuvering to result in the emer- 
gence of Nasser's true successor. Sadat surprised everyone with 
a series of astute political moves by which he was able to retain 
the presidency and emerge as a leader in his own right. 

Sadat moved very cautiously at first and pledged to continue 
Nasser's policies. On May 2, 1971, however, Sadat dismissed Ali 
Sabri, the vice president and head of the ASU. On May 15, Sadat 
announced that Sabri and more than 100 others had been arrested 
and charged with plotting a coup against the government. Also 
charged in the plot were Sharawy Jumaa, minister of interior and 
head of internal security, and Muhammad Fawzi, minister of war. 
These men were considered to be left-leaning and pro-Soviet. They 
were arrested with other important figures of the Nasser era. They 
had all resigned their positions on May 13, apparently in prepara- 
tion for a takeover. But anticipating their moves, Sadat outflanked 
them and was then able to assert himself and appoint his own fol- 
lowers, rather than Free Officer colleagues, to leadership positions. 


Historical Setting 

This action, which became known as the Corrective Revolution, 
began Sadat's move away from Nasser's policies. He announced 
new elections and a complete reorganization of the ASU. The armed 
forces pledged their support for Sadat on May 15. There were also 
some popular demonstrations in the streets in support of Sadat's 

Sadat signed the first Soviet-Egyptian Treaty of Friendship and 
Cooperation on May 27, 1971. He later explained that he did it 
to allay Soviet fears provoked by his ouster of Ali Sabri and the 
others and to speed up deliveries of Soviet military supplies. Even 
as he was preparing to break the stalemate with Israel, however, 
he was already thinking of expelling the Soviet advisers. 

October 1973 War 

On February 4, 1971, Sadat announced a new peace initiative 
that contained a significant concession: he was willing to accept 
an interim agreement with Israel in return for a partial Israeli with- 
drawal from Sinai. A timetable would then be set for Israel's with- 
drawal from the rest of the occupied territories in accordance with 
UN Resolution 242. Egypt would reopen the canal, restore diplo- 
matic relations with the United States, which had been broken af- 
ter the June 1967 War, and sign a peace agreement with Israel 
through Jarring. Sadat's initiative fell on deaf ears in Tel Aviv and 
in Washington, which was not disposed to assisting the Soviet Un- 
ion's major client in the region. Disillusioned by Israel's failure 
to respond to his initiative, Sadat rejected the Rogers Plan and the 

In May 1972, President Nixon met Soviet president Leonid 
Brezhnev, and Sadat was convinced that the two superpowers would 
try to prevent a new war in the Middle East and that a position 
of stalemate — no peace, no war — had been reached. For Sadat this 
position was intolerable. The June 1967 War had been a humiliating 
defeat for the Arabs. Without a military victory, any Arab leader 
who agreed to negotiate directly with Israel would do so from a 
position of extreme weakness. At the same time, the United States 
and the Soviet Union were urging restraint and caution. However, 
the United States refused to put pressure on Israel to make con- 
cessions, and the Soviet Union, which had broken off diplomatic 
relations with Israel as a result of the June 1967 War, had no in- 
fluence over Israel. Internally, the Egyptian economy was being 
steadily drained by the confrontation with Israel. Economic prob- 
lems were becoming more serious because of the tremendous 
amount of resources directed toward building up the military since 
the June 1967 War, and it was clear that Sadat would have to 


Egypt: A Country Study 

demonstrate some results from this policy. In the last half of 1972, 
there were large-scale student riots, and some journalists came out 
publicly in support of the students. Thus, Sadat felt under increasing 
pressure to go to war against Israel as the only way to regain the 
lost territories. 

In retrospect, there were indications that Egypt was preparing 
for war. On July 17, 1972, Sadat expelled the 15,000 Soviet ad- 
visers from Egypt. Sadat later explained that the expulsion freed 
him to pursue his preparations for war. On December 28, 1972, 
Sadat created "permanent war committees." On March 26, 1973, 
Sadat assumed the additional tide of prime minister and formed 
a new government designed to continue preparations for a con- 
frontation with Israel. 

Then on October 6, 1973, Egyptian forces launched a success- 
ful surprise attack across the Suez Canal (see War of Attrition and 
the October 1973 War, ch. 5). The Syrians carried out an attack 
on Israel at the same time. For the Arabs, it was the fasting month 
of Ramadan, and for Israel it was Yom Kippur. The crossing of 
the canal, an astounding feat of technology and military acumen, 
took only four hours to complete. The crossing was code-named 
Operation Badr after the first victory of the Prophet Muhammad, 
which culminated in his entry into Mecca in 630. 

On October 17 the Arab oil producers announced a program 
of reprisals against the Western backers of Israel: a 5 percent cut- 
back in output, followed by further such reductions every month 
until Israel had withdrawn from all the occupied territories and 
the rights of the Palestinians had been restored. The next day, Presi- 
dent Nixon formally asked Congress for US$2.2 billion in emer- 
gency funds to finance the massive airlift of arms to Israel that was 
already under way. The following day, King Faisal of Saudi Ara- 
bia decreed an immediate 10 percent cutback in Saudi oil and, five 
days after that, the complete suspension of all shipments to the Unit- 
ed States. 

Israel was shocked and unprepared for the war. After the initial 
confusion and near panic in Israel followed by the infusion of United 
States weaponry, Israel was able to counterattack and succeeded 
in crossing to the west bank of the canal and surrounding the Egyp- 
tian Third Army. With the Third Army surrounded, Sadat ap- 
pealed to the Soviet Union for help. Soviet prime minister Alexei 
Kosygin believed he had obtained the American acceptance of a 
cease-fire through Henry Kissinger, United States secretary of state. 
On October 22, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 338, 
calling for a cease-fire by all parties within twelve hours in the po- 
sitions they occupied. Egypt accepted the cease-fire, but Israel, 


Historical Setting 

alleging Egyptian violations of the cease-fire, completed the encir- 
clement of the Third Army to the east of the canal. By nightfall 
on October 23, the road to Suez, the Third Army's only supply 
line, was in Israeli hands, cutting off two divisions and 45,000 men. 

The Soviet Union were furious, believing it had been double- 
crossed by the United States. On October 24, the Soviet ambas- 
sador handed Kissinger a note from Brezhnev threatening that if 
the United States were not prepared to join in sending forces to 
impose the cease-fire, the Soviet Union would act alone. The United 
States took the threat very seriously and responded by ordering 
a grade-three nuclear alert, the first of its kind since President John 
F. Kennedy's order during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. The 
threat came to naught, however, because a UN emergency force 
arrived in the battle zone to police the cease-fire. 

Meanwhile, Syria felt betrayed by Egypt because Sadat did not 
inform his ally of his decision to accept the cease-fire. Two days 
after Sadat, President Hafiz al Assad of Syria accepted the cease- 
fire as well. 

Neither side had won a clear-cut victory, but for the Egyptians, 
it was a victory nonetheless. The Arabs had taken the initiative 
in attacking the Israelis and had shown that Israel was not invinci- 
ble. The stinging defeats of 1948, 1956, and 1967 seemed to be 

The Israelis, however, paid a heavy price for merely holding their 
attackers to an inconclusive draw. In three weeks, they lost 2,523 
personnel, two and a half times as many, proportionally speak- 
ing, as the United States lost in the ten years of the Vietnam war. 
The war had a devastating effect on Israel's economy and was fol- 
lowed by savage austerity measures and drastically reduced living 
standards. For the first time, Israelis witnessed the humiliating spec- 
tacle of Israeli prisoners, heads bowed, paraded on Arab televi- 
sion. Also, for the first time captured Israeli hardware was exhibited 
in Cairo. 

In Egypt the casualties included about 8,000 killed. The effect 
of the war on the morale of the Egyptian population, however, was 
immense. Sadat's prestige grew tremendously. The war, along with 
the political moves Sadat had made previously, meant that he was 
totally in control and able to implement the programs he wanted. 
He was the hero of the day. 

Negotiations toward a permanent cease-fire began in Decem- 
ber 1973. In January 1974, Kissinger began his shuttle diplomacy 
between Egypt and Israel. On January 18, the first disengagement 
agreement was signed separately by Sadat and Golda Meir. A sec- 
ond disengagement agreement was signed on September 1, 1975. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

The agreement provided for a partial Israeli withdrawal in Sinai 
and limited the number of troops and kinds of weapons Egypt could 
have on the eastern side of the canal. Israel agreed to withdraw 
from the Abu Rudays oil fields in western Sinai, which produced 
small but important revenue for Egypt. Egypt also agreed not to 
use force to achieve its aims, a concession that in effect made Egypt 
a nonbelligerent in the Arab-Israeli conflict. As the price for its 
agreement, Israel extracted important concessions from the Unit- 
ed States. Kissinger's secret promises to Israel included meeting 
Israel's military needs in any emergency, preserving Israel's arms 
superiority by providing the most advanced and sophisticated 
weaponry, and pledging not to recognize or to negotiate with the 

On June 5, 1975, the Suez Canal was reopened. This was a great 
moment for Sadat, not only politically but economically, because 
the canal provided Egypt with considerable revenues (see Suez 
Canal, ch. 3). 

Political Developments, 1971-78 

On September 11, 1971, a new constitution was presented by 
Sadat and approved by the electorate. The previous constitution 
had been issued as "provisional" in 1964. The Constitution of 1971 
provides additional guarantees against arbitrary arrest, seizure of 
property, and other Nasser-era abuses. The responsibility of the 
People's Assembly, which replaced the National Assembly, was 
widened, but the president clearly retained dominant authority. 
Sadat dissolved the old legislature on September 8, 1971, and on 
September 19, he formed a new cabinet. 

The Constitution provides that the president may issue binding 
decrees, which was essentially the way Sadat ruled the country. 
After ridding himself of Ali Sabri and his allies, Sadat conducted 
his presidency without the constraints that Nasser had faced. Sadat's 
government came to be composed of his own handpicked follow- 
ers, not of colleagues whose opinions he had to consider. Especial- 
ly during the euphoria following the October 1973 War, Sadat was 
able to consolidate the power of the presidency in a way that Nas- 
ser never had (see The Presidency, ch. 4). 

Nevertheless, Sadat attempted to allow a certain degree of po- 
litical expression. Competitive, but not totally free, elections were 
held for the People's Assembly on October 27, 1971 . In 1975 Sadat 
permitted the establishment of three groupings in the ASU to 
express the opinions of the left, the right, and the center of the 
regime. By 1976 the three platforms were permitted, within es- 
tablished guidelines, to act as separate political entities, but each 


Historical Setting 

group needed to elect a minimum of twelve deputies to the 
People's Assembly to be recognized. The leftist group was origi- 
nally known as the National Progressive Unionist Organization 
(NPUO — later NPUP when it was allowed to become a party) led 
by Khalid Muhi ad Din, a Free Officer and a Marxist. The right- 
wing group was the Socialist Liberal Organization (SLO — later 
the Liberal or Ahrar Party) led by Mustafa Kamil Murad. The 
center group was known as the Egyptian Arab Socialist Organiza- 
tion. The country's main political forces, the Wafd, the Muslim 
Brotherhood, the Nasserites, and the communists, were not allowed 

In the October 1976 election, not unexpectedly, the progovern- 
ment center platform of the ASU won an overwhelming majority, 
280 seats; the SLP won 12 and the NPUP only 2. Independent 
candidates won forty-eight seats. When he opened the new assem- 
bly, Sadat announced that the platforms would become political 

In July 1977, Sadat announced that he would establish his own 
party, the National Democratic Party (NDP), signaling the end 
of the Arab Socialist Union, which was merged with the NDP. Sadat 
also wanted a more pliable left-wing opposition party, so the So- 
cialist Labor Party (Amal) was founded with Sadat's brother-in- 
law as vice president. 

Sadat also allowed comparative freedom of action to the Mus- 
lim Brotherhood. Sadat felt he could use the Islamic fundamen- 
talists to counter the growing influence of the left. The leaders of 
the Muslim Brotherhood were freed in 1974 along with other po- 
litical prisoners. They were not allowed to become a legal organi- 
zation, but they were allowed to operate openly and to publish their 
magazine, Al Awd (The Return) as long as they did not criticize 
the regime too sharply. This policy seemed to work until the peace 
treaty with Israel, and then the Brotherhood became a severe crit- 
ic of the regime (see The "Dominant Party" System, ch. 4). 

The movement away from a one-party system matched Egypt's 
turn away from the Soviet Union and toward the United States. 
Sadat hoped that his new political and economic policies would at- 
tract large sums of private American investment. He also felt that 
the United States was the only country that could pressure Israel 
into a final peace settlement. To enhance relations with the Unit- 
ed States and to respond to the Soviet Union's refusal to resched- 
ule repayments of Egypt's debt, Sadat unilaterally renounced the 
Soviet-Egyptian Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation on March 
15, 1976. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Egypt's New Direction 

In April 1974, Sadat presented what he called the October Work- 
ing Paper, which described his vision of Egypt's future. The paper 
committed Egypt to building a strong country, continuing the con- 
frontation with Israel, working toward Arab unity, and playing 
a leading role in world politics. Perhaps the most important part 
of Sadat's paper was the announcement of a new economic policy 
that came to be called infitah, (opening or open door; see Glossary 
and The Role of Government, ch. 3). 

This new economic policy allowed increased foreign investment 
in Egypt, greater participation by the private sector in the Egyp- 
tian economy, more freedom for individuals to develop their own 
wealth and property, and relaxed currency regulations so that Egyp- 
tians could have access to foreign currency. The new direction 
gradually changed Egypt in many ways: the shops filled with for- 
eign consumer goods; foreign companies built huge modern hotels; 
and new wealth was displayed in a way that had not been seen in 
Egypt since before the 1952 Revolution. Doubts began to be ex- 
pressed, however, about how much all this was actually doing for 
the Egyptian people since foreign investment in long-term agricul- 
tural or industrial projects was lacking. 

In January 1977, Egyptians took to the streets in antigovern- 
ment riots that demonstrated their disillusionment with infitah and 
the nepotism and corruption it spawned. The cause of the riots 
went back to late 1976 when Sadat, in an effort to solve the coun- 
try's economic problems, asked the World Bank for loans. In 
response to the bank's criticisms of public subsidies, the govern- 
ment announced in January 1977 that it was ending subsidies on 
flour, rice, and cooking oil and canceling bonuses and pay increases. 

The result was immediate and shocking. On January 18 and 19, 
there was rioting in towns from Aswan to Alexandria, variously 
described as the biggest upheaval since the 1919 riots against the 
British, or a second Black Saturday. It was the first time the army 
had been brought into the streets since 1952. For thirty-six hours, 
the rioters unleashed their pent-up fury on targets that symbolized 
the yawning gap between the haves and have-nots, the frivolity 
and corruption of the ruling class, and the incompetence and in- 
sensitivity of the administration. The rioters shouted slogans like, 
"Hero of the crossing, where is our breakfast?" and "Thieves of 
the infitah, the people are famished." There were also shouts of 
"Nasser, Nasser." In the clashes between demonstrators and police, 
800 persons were killed, and several thousands were wounded, 
according to unofficial estimates. The rioting ended when the 


Historical Setting 

government canceled the price increases while retaining 10 per- 
cent wage increases and other benefits for public sector employees. 

Peace with Israel 

In 1977 the outlook for peace between Israel and Egypt was not 
good. Israel still held most of Sinai, and negotiations had been at 
a stalemate since the second disengagement agreement in 1975. 
Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin was a hard-liner and a 
supporter of Israeli expansion. He approved the development of 
settlements on the occupied West Bank and reprisal raids into 
southern Lebanon. He also refused to approve any negotiation with 
the PLO. After the food riots of January 1977, Sadat decided that 
something dramatic had to be done, and so on November 19, 1977, 
in response to an invitation from Begin, Sadat journeyed to Jeru- 

The world was amazed by this courageous move. The reaction 
in Egypt was generally favorable. Many Egyptians accepted peace 
with Israel if it meant regaining Egyptian territories. They were 
tired of bearing the major burden of the confrontation and, con- 
sidering the sacrifices Egypt had already made, felt that the Pales- 
tinians were ungrateful. Of the Arab countries, only Sudan, Oman, 
and Morocco were favorable to Sadat's trip. In the other Arab 
states, there was shock and dismay. The Arabs felt that Sadat had 
betrayed the cause of Arab solidarity and the Palestinians. In spite 
of Sadat's denials, the Arabs believed that he intended to go it alone 
and make a separate peace with Israel. 

In fact, that is what happened. In December 1977, Egypt and 
Israel began peace negotiations in Cairo. These negotiations con- 
tinued on and off over the next several months, but by September 
1978 it was clear that they were deadlocked. President Jimmy Carter 
had become closely involved in the negotiations. In an effort to 
break the deadlock, Carter invited Sadat and Begin to Camp David. 
The negotiations were tense and almost broke down several times. 
On September 17, however, Carter announced that the Camp 
David Accords had been reached. They consisted of two parts, the 
Framework for Peace in the Middle East and the Framework for 
the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Israel and Egypt. The 
Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty was signed on March 26, 1979. Is- 
rael agreed to withdraw from Sinai within three years of the treaty; 
normal diplomatic and trade relations were to be established, and 
Israeli ships would pass unhindered through the canal. Egypt, 
however, would not have full sovereignty over Sinai. A multina- 
tional observer force would be stationed in Sinai, and the United 
States would monitor events there. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

The Framework for Peace in the Middle East was an elabora- 
tion of the "autonomy" plan that Begin had put forward nine 
months before. A "self-governing authority" was to be established 
for a five-year transitional period, by the third year of which negoti- 
ations would begin to determine the final status of the West Bank 
and the Gaza Strip and to conclude a peace treaty between Israel 
and Jordan. Within one month of the ratification of the treaty, 
Egypt and Israel were supposed to begin negotiations for the es- 
tablishment of the "elected self-governing authority" in the West 
Bank and the Gaza Strip. They set themselves the goal of com- 
pleting the negotiations within one year so that elections could be 
held "as expeditiously as possible." These deadlines came and went, 
and by 1 990 the Framework for Peace had become a virtual dead 
letter. Begin made his position perfectly clear: Jerusalem would 
remain undivided; settlement would continue, and autonomy would 
never become sovereignty. There would be no Palestinian state. 
On May 12, 1979, shortly before the autonomy talks were sup- 
posed to begin, deputy Geula Cohen, a Zionist extremist, in- 
troduced a bill, adopted by the Knesset, that declared Jerusalem 
to be Israel's united and indivisible capital. 

The Camp David Accords made Sadat a hero in Europe and 
the United States. The reaction in Egypt was generally favorable, 
but there was opposition from the left and from the Muslim Brother- 
hood. In the Arab world, Sadat was almost universally condemned. 
Only Sudan issued an ambivalent statement of support. The Arab 
states suspended all official aid and severed diplomatic relations. 
Egypt was expelled from the Arab League, which it was instrumen- 
tal in founding, and from other Arab institutions. Saudi Arabia 
withdrew the funds it had promised for Egypt's purchase of Ameri- 
can fighter aircraft. 

In the West, where Sadat was extolled as a hero and a champi- 
on of peace, the Arab rejection of the Camp David Accords is often 
confused with the rejection of peace. The basis for Arab rejection 
was opposition to Egypt's separate peace with Israel. Although 
Sadat insisted that the treaty provided for a comprehensive settle- 
ment of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Arab states and the PLO saw 
it as a separate peace, which Sadat had vowed he would not sign. 
The Arabs believed that only a unified Arab stance and the threat 
of force would persuade Israel to negotiate a settlement of the Pales- 
tinian issue that would satisfy Palestinian demands for a homeland. 
Without Egypt's military power, the threat of force evaporated 
because no single Arab state was strong enough militarily to con- 
front Israel alone. Thus, the Arabs felt betrayed and dismayed that 


Historical Setting 

the Palestinian issue, the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict, would 
remain an unresolved, destabilizing force in the region. 

The Aftermath of Camp David and the Assassination of Sadat 

The Camp David Accords brought peace to Egypt but not 
prosperity. With no real improvement in the economy, Sadat be- 
came increasingly unpopular. His isolation in the Arab world was 
matched by his increasing remoteness from the mass of Egyp- 
tians. While Sadat's critics in the Arab world remained beyond 
his reach, increasingly he reacted to criticism at home by expand- 
ing censorship and jailing his opponents. In addition, Sadat sub- 
jected the Egyptians to a series of referenda on his actions and 
proposals that he invariably won by more than 99 percent of the 
vote. For example, in May 1979 the Egyptian people approved the 
Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty by 99.9 percent of those voting. 

One of Sadat's most remarkable acts during this period was the 
so-called Law of Shame, which was drafted at Sadat's express in- 
structions. Among the shameful crimes punishable under this law 
were "advocating any doctrine that implies negation of divine teach- 
ing," "allowing children or youth to go astray by advocating the 
repudiation of popular, religious, moral, or national values or by 
setting a bad example in a public place," and "broadcasting or 
publishing gross or scurrilous words or pictures that could offend 
public sensibilities or undermine the dignity of the state." Offenders 
could be barred from public life or from engaging in economic ac- 
tivity or managing their own property; they could be condemned 
to internal exile or prohibited from leaving the country. The Law 
of Shame was approved in a referendum by more than 98 percent 
of the electorate. This was remarkable since there was widespread 
opposition to the law, which was denounced as "an act of shame. ' ' 

In May 1980, an impressive, nonpartisan body of citizens charged 
Sadat with superseding his own constitution. Their manifesto 
declared, "The style in which Egypt is governed today is not based 
on any specific form of government. While it is not dictatorship, 
Nazism, or fascism, neither is it democracy or pseudodemocracy." 

In September 1981, Sadat ordered the biggest roundup of his 
opponents since he came to power, at least 1 ,500 people according 
to the official figure but more according to unofficial reports. The 
Muslim Brotherhood bore the brunt of the arrests. The supreme 
guide of the Brotherhood, Umar Tilmasani, and other religious 
militants were arrested. Sadat also withdrew his "recognition" of 
the Coptic pope Shenudah III, banished him to a desert monastery, 
and arrested several bishops and priests. Also arrested were such 
prominent figures as journalist Mohamed Heikal, and Wafd leader 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Fuad Siraj ad Din. Sadat ordered the arrest of several SLP leaders 
and the closing of Ash Shaab (The People) newspaper. A referen- 
dum on his purge showed nearly 99.5 percent of the electorate 

On October 6, while observing a military parade commemorat- 
ing the eighth anniversary of the October 1973 War, Sadat was 
assassinated by members of Al Jihad movement, a group of reli- 
gious extremists. Sadat's assassin was Lieutenant Colonel Khalid 
al Islambuli. The conspirators were arrested and tried. In April 
1982, two of the conspirators were shot and three hanged. 

Whereas a number of Western leaders, including three former 
United States presidents, attended Sadat's funeral, only one mem- 
ber of the Arab League was represented by a head of state, Sudan. 
Only two, Oman and Somalia, sent representatives. In Egypt 43 
million people went on with the celebration of Id al Adha, the Feast 
of Sacrifice, as if nothing had happened. There were no throngs 
in the streets, grieving and lamenting, as there were when Nasser 
died. In the Arab world, Sadat's death was greeted with jubilation. 

Mubarak and the Middle Way 

Sadat's handpicked successor, Husni Mubarak, was overwhelm- 
ingly approved in a national referendum on October 24, 1981 . Sadat 
appointed Mubarak vice president of the state in 1975 and of the 
NDP in 1978. Mubarak, who was born in 1928 in Lower Egypt 
and had spent his career in the armed forces, was not a member 
of the Free Officers' movement. He had trained as a pilot in the 
Soviet Union and became air force chief of staff in 1 969 and deputy 
minister of war in 1972. 

In a speech to the People's Assembly in November 1981, Mu- 
barak outlined the principles of his government's policy and spoke 
about the future he wanted for Egypt. Infitah would continue, and 
there would be no return to the restrictive days of Nasser. Mubarak 
called for an infitah of production, however, rather than of con- 
sumption, that would benefit all of society and not just the wealthy 
few. Food subsidies would remain, and imports of unnecessary lux- 
ury goods would be curtailed. Opposition parties would be allowed. 
The peace treaty with Israel would be observed. Thus, Mubarak 
sought to chart a middle course between the conflicting legacies 
of Nasser and Sadat. 

Since 1981 Mubarak has allowed more overt political activity. 
Slowly, parties and newspapers began to function again, and po- 
litical opponents jailed by Sadat were released. At the time of the 
1984 election, five parties were allowed to function in addition to 
the ruling NDP. The left-wing opposition consisted of the National 


Historical Setting 

Progressive Unionist Party, a grouping of socialists led by Khalid 
Muhi ad Din, and the Socialist Labor Party. The Wafd resurfaced 
and won a court case against its prohibition. One religious party 
was licensed, the Umma. Not officially represented were the com- 
munists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and avowed Nasserites, although 
all three tendencies were represented in other parties (see The 
" Dominant Party System," ch. 4). 

In the 1984 election, a party had to win at least 8 percent of the 
vote to be represented in the Assembly. The NDP received more 
than 70 percent of the vote (391 seats). The Wafd, the only other 
party to gain any seats, won fifty- seven. The NPUP received only 
7 percent of the votes and consequently lost them all to the NDP. 
There were some complaints that the election was rigged, but no 
serious challenge was mounted against the results. 

In addition to domestic programs, Mubarak was concerned to 
regain the Sinai Peninsula for Egypt and to return his country to 
the Arab fold. One of Mubarak's first acts was to pledge to honor 
the peace treaty with Israel. In April 1982, the Israeli withdrawal 
from Sinai took place as scheduled. A multinational force of ob- 
servers took up positions in Sinai to monitor the peace. Egypt was 
allowed to station only one army division in Sinai. 

In 1983 Egypt's isolation in the Arab world began to end. In 
that year, Arafat met Mubarak in Cairo after the PLO leader had 
been expelled from Lebanon under Syrian pressure. In January 
1984, Egypt was readmitted unconditionally to the Islamic Con- 
ference Organization. In November 1987, an Arab summit reso- 
lution allowed the Arab countries to resume diplomatic relations 
with Egypt. This action was taken largely as a result of the Iran- 
Iraq War and Arab alarm over the Iranian offensive on Iraqi ter- 
ritories at the end of 1 986 and throughout January and February 
1987. On Egypt's side, its economic crisis worsened, and it need- 
ed economic assistance from the Arab oil states. Thus, the sum- 
mit resolution amounted to an exchange of Egyptian security 
assistance in the Persian Gulf crisis for Arab aid to Egypt's econo- 
my. The summit indicated that Mubarak, in attempting to steer 
a middle course between the imposing legacies of Nasser and Sadat, 
had brought Egypt back into the Arab fold and into the center of 
Middle East peace making. 

* * * 

The literature on Egypt from ancient to modern times is exten- 
sive. Good basic works on ancient Egypt are Egypt before the Pharaohs 
by Michael H. Hoffman and Ancient Egypt, edited by B.G. Trigger, 


Egypt: A Country Study 

B.J. Kemp, D. O'Connor, and A.B. Lloyd. Also recommended 
are Cyril Aldred's The Egyptians and Egypt to the End of the Old King- 
dom. Two readable, popular histories are Jill Kamil's The Ancient 
Egyptians and Robert A. Armour's Gods and Myths of Ancient Egypt. 
Egyptian art is covered in W. Stevenson Smith's The Art and Ar- 
chitecture of Ancient Egypt. 

The Arab Conquest of Egypt by Alfred Butler and Egypt During the 
Middle Ages by Stanley Lane-Poole are classics that should be read 
for the periods they cover. For Egypt during the medieval period, 
there are also Robert Irwin's The Middle East in the Middle Ages and 
Bernard Lewis's article, "Egypt and Syria," in The Cambridge History 
of Islam. Egypt during the Ottoman period is covered in P.M. Holt's 
Egypt and the Fertile Crescent, 1516-1922. 

For the late Ottoman period and the transition to modernity, 
two important historical works are The Roots of Modern Egypt by 
Daniel Crecelius and Islamic Roots of Capitalism by Peter Gran. Valu- 
able French works are Andre Raymond's A rtisans et commergants au 
Caire au XVIIIe siecle and the collection of articles in LEgypte au 
XIXe siecle. 

For the modern period, there are several good general histories, 
including P.M. Holt' 's Egypt and the Fertile Crescent, 1516-1922, which 
ends with World War I and Egyptian independence, and P.J. 
Vatikiotis's The History of Egypt from Muhammad AU to Sadat. Roger 
Owen's The Middle East in the World Economy has informative chap- 
ters on Egypt. Also important for an understanding of the trans- 
formation that took place in Egypt in the nineteenth century are 
Holt's Political and Social Change in Modern Egypt and Gabriel Baer's 
Studies in the Social History of Modern Egypt. 

Other important studies on particular aspects of this period in- 
clude Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid Marsot's Egypt in the Reign of Muhmmad 
AU; Robert Hunter's Egypt under the Khedives, 1805-1879; Albert 
Hourani's intellectual history, Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 
1798-1939; Timothy Mitchell's Colonizing Egypt; and Eric Davis's 
Challenging Colonialism. The definitive study of the Urabi Revolt 
and the British invasion of 1882 remains Alexander Scholch's Egypt 
for the Egyptians. Also important are the first book-length history 
of Egyptian women in English, Women in Nineteenth- Century Egypt 
by Judith Tucker, and two studies of the development of the work- 
ing class, Workers on the Nile by Joel Beinin and Zachary Lockman, 
and Tinker, Tailor, and Textile Worker by Ellis Goldberg. 

The period of parliamentary democracy is well covered in Party 
Politics in Egypt by Marius Deeb and The Wafd by Janice Terry. 
For the revolutionary and postrevolutionary periods, there are An- 
thony McDermott's Egypt from Nasser to Mubarak: A Flawed Revolution 


Historical Setting 

and Derek Hopwood's Egypt: Politics and Society, 1945-1984. Also 
important are Anouar Abdel-Malek's Egypt: Military Society, John 
Waterbury's The Egypt of Nasser and Sadat, and Raymond A. Hin- 
nebusch, Jr. 's Egyptian Politics under Sadat. Egypt's most recent his- 
tory is covered in David Hirst's and Irene Beeson's biography of 
Anwar Sadat entitled Sadat, Muhammed Hassanain Haikal's at- 
tempt to explain Sadat's assassination in Autumn of Fury, and Robert 
Springborg's Mubarak's Egypt. (For further information and com- 
plete citations, see Bibliography.) 


Chapter 2. The Society and Its Environment 

Queen Nefertiti 

EGYPTIAN SOCIETY IN 1990 reflected both ancient roots and 
the profound changes that have occurred since Napoleon Bonaparte 
invaded the country in 1798. Land tenure, crops, and cultivation 
patterns had all been transformed during the nineteenth and twen- 
tieth centuries, and the country had become increasingly urbanized 
and industrialized. Nevertheless, approximately half the popula- 
tion still lived in rural areas where settlement patterns remained 
defined, as they had been since pharaonic times, by the Nile River 
and irrigated agriculture. Villages were clustered along both banks 
of the Nile and along myriad irrigation canals in the Delta. 

The rise of commercial agriculture in the nineteenth century set 
in motion a transformation of rural society. Land that was previ- 
ously held in common by a village and granted in usufruct to in- 
dividual families was transferred to private ownership. The transfers 
created a small class of wealthy absentee landowners, a somewhat 
larger class of relatively prosperous farmers who owned medium- 
sized parcels of land, and an enormous class of small farmers, 
sharecroppers, and landless casual laborers. 

The land-reform measures implemented by the government in 
the 1950s and 1960s led to the redistribution of nearly 15 percent 
of the arable land to about 10 percent of the rural population. Land 
reform limited individual landownership to twenty-one hectares, 
thus forcing the wealthiest landed families to sell most of their 
holdings. Small peasant proprietors were the main beneficiar- 
ies of the redistribution. By the early 1980s, however, continued 
population growth and rising production costs had eroded many 
of the accomplishments of land reform. Inheritance tended to frag- 
ment already small holdings, and the number of landless people 

Land reform was only one of several social programs initiated 
by the Free Officers who led the 1952 Revolution (see The Revo- 
lution and the Early Years of the New Government, 1952-56, ch. 
1). The majority of these officers, who came mostly from the mid- 
dle class, was determined to broaden opportunities in a society that 
had been dominated by a narrow elite. They perceived education 
as a critical force for change. Beginning in the nineteenth century, 
secular education provided the country with the foundation for a 
civil bureaucracy. Access to a university education and government 
employment, however, was generally limited to the urban upper 


Egypt: A Country Study 

classes until the mid- 1930s, when sons of urban and rural middle- 
class families were accepted into the military or civil administra- 
tion. Following the 1952 Revolution, educational opportunities from 
primary school through university increased substantially. Through 
the 1980s, university enrollments swelled as increasing numbers 
of middle- and lower-class youth pursued higher education in the 
hope of obtaining prestigious employment. 

By the 1980s, overstaffing in the state bureaucracy had become 
a major problem. Periodic discussion by the mass media on the 
need to reform the government's hiring and promotion systems, 
which gave preference to university graduates, caused anxiety 
among students, many of whom had migrated from rural areas 
and faced limited employment prospects in agriculture. Most of 
these students perceived higher education and government employ- 
ment as means for achieving upward mobility. They therefore 
showed litde support for the proposed reforms, which would reduce 
their opportunities. 

Massive urbanization beginning after World War II has had a 
pervasive and accelerating impact on the nation's cities, especial- 
ly Cairo and Alexandria. These cities, which were once the en- 
claves of the relatively prosperous and privileged, have attracted 
millions of rural migrants, including landowning families' children 
who wanted to pursue an education and illiterate sons and daugh- 
ters of poor, landless peasants who were willing to work as unskilled 
laborers. The migrants have adapted to urban life by attempt- 
ing to replicate the social organization found in villages. Residen- 
tial patterns, employment practices, and socializing have tended 
to reflect and to reinforce relationships formed in the country- 

Religion, mainly Islam, is an integral aspect of social life. 
Although most Egyptian Muslims respect and agree on the basic 
tenets of Islam, their religious perspectives differ. Trained the- 
ologians, for example, practice orthodox Islam while villagers prac- 
tice a simple form of the religion. Since the 1970s, there has been 
a resurgence of Islamic political groups. Activists ranged from per- 
sons fervent in religious practice to individuals who favor the adop- 
tion of the Muslim legal code as the basis of Egyptian law to others 
who espouse the violent overthrow of the government to achieve 
an Islamic social order. Some leaders of the Islamic political groups 
are former university students or recent graduates whose families 
migrated from rural areas. Many Muslims have responded favora- 
bly to these leaders, who are likely to remain a potent political force 
in the 1990s. 


The Society and Its Environment 


Physical Size and Borders 

Egypt, covering 1,001,449 square kilometers of land, is about 
the same size as Texas and New Mexico combined. The country's 
greatest distance from north to south is 1,024 kilometers, and from 
east to west, 1 ,240 kilometers. The country is located in northeastern 
Africa and includes the Sinai Peninsula (also seen as Sinai), which 
is often considered part of Asia. Egypt's natural boundaries con- 
sist of more than 2,900 kilometers of coastiine along the Mediter- 
ranean Sea, the Gulf of Suez, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Red Sea 
(see fig. 1). 

Egypt has land boundaries with Israel, Libya, Sudan, and the 
Gaza Strip, a Palestinian area formerly administered by Egypt and 
occupied by Israel since 1967. The land boundaries are generally 
straight lines that do not conform to geographic features such as 
rivers. Egypt shares its longest boundary, which extends 1,273 
kilometers, with Sudan. In accordance with the Anglo-Egyptian 
Condominium Agreement of 1899, this boundary runs westward 
from the Red Sea along the twenty-second parallel, includes the 
Sudanese Nile salient (Wadi Haifa salient), and continues along 
the twenty- second parallel until it meets the twenty-fifth meridi- 
an. The Sudanese Nile salient, a finger-shaped area along the Nile 
River (Nahr an Nil) north of the twenty-second parallel, is nearly 
covered by Lake Nasser, which was created when the Aswan High 
Dam was constructed in the 1960s. An "administrative" bound- 
ary, which supplements the main Egyptian- Sudanese boundary per- 
mits nomadic tribes to gain access to water holes at the eastern end 
of Egypt's southern frontier. The administrative boundary departs 
from the international boundary in two places; Egypt administers 
the area south of the twenty- second parallel, and Sudan administers 
the area north of it. 

Egypt shares all 1,150 kilometers of the western border with 
Libya. This border was defined in 1925 under an agreement with 
Italy, which had colonized Libya. Before and after World War II, 
the northern border was adjusted, resulting in the return of the 
village of As Sallum to Egyptian sovereignty. Egypt shares 255 
kilometers of its eastern border in Sinai with Israel and 1 1 kilome- 
ters with the Gaza Strip. 

Egypt is divided into twenty-six governorates (sometimes called 
provinces), which include four city governorates: Alexandria (Al 
Iskandariyah), Cairo (Al Qahirah), Port Said (Bur Said) and Suez; 
the nine governorates of Lower Egypt in the Nile Delta region; 
the eight governorates of Upper Egypt along the Nile River south 


Egypt: A Country Study 

from Cairo to Aswan; and the five frontier governorates covering 
Sinai and the deserts that lie west and east of the Nile. All gover- 
norates, except the frontier ones, are in the Nile Delta or along 
the Nile Valley and Suez Canal. 

Natural Regions 

Egypt is predominantly desert. Only 35,000 square kilometers — 
3 . 5 percent of the total land area — are cultivated and permanent- 
ly settled. Most of the country lies within the wide band of desert 
that stretches from Africa's Atlantic Coast across the continent and 
into southwest Asia. Egypt's geological history has produced four 
major physical regions: the Nile Valley and Delta, the Western 
Desert (also known as the Libyan Desert), the Eastern Desert (also 
known as the Arabian Desert), and the Sinai Peninsula (see fig. 
3). The Nile Valley and Delta is the most important region be- 
cause it supports 99 percent of the population on the country's only 
cultivable land. 

Nile Valley and Delta 

The Nile Valley and Delta, the most extensive oasis on earth, 
was created by the world's second-longest river and its seemingly 
inexhaustible sources. Without the topographic channel that per- 
mits the Nile to flow across the Sahara, Egypt would be entirely 
desert; the Nile River traverses about 1,600 kilometers through 
Egypt and flows northward from the Egyptian-Sudanese border 
to the Mediterranean Sea. The Nile is a combination of three long 
rivers whose sources are in central Africa: the White Nile, the Blue 
Nile, and the Atbarah. 

The White Nile, which begins at Lake Victoria in Uganda, sup- 
plies about 28 percent of the Nile's waters in Egypt. In its course 
from Lake Victoria to Juba in southern Sudan, the elevation of 
the White Nile's channel drops more than 600 meters. In its 
1,600-kilometer course from Juba to Khartoum, Sudan's capital, 
the river descends only 75 meters. In southern and central Sudan, 
the White Nile passes through a wide, flat plain covered with swamp 
vegetation and slows almost to stagnation. 

The Blue Nile, which originates at Lake Tana in Ethiopia, pro- 
vides an average of 58 percent of the Nile's waters in Egypt. It 
has a steeper gradient and flows more swiftly than the White Nile, 
which it joins at Khartoum. Unlike the White Nile, the Blue Nile 
carries a considerable amount of sediment; for several kilometers 
north of Khartoum, water closer to the eastern bank of the river 
is visibly muddy and comes from the Blue Nile, while the water 
closer to the western bank is clearer and comes from the White Nile. 


The Society and Its Environment 

The much shorter Atbarah River, which also originates in Ethio- 
pia, joins the main Nile north of Khartoum between the fifth and 
sixth cataracts (areas of steep rapids) and provides about 14 per- 
cent of the Nile's waters in Egypt. During the low- water season, 
which runs from January to June, the Atbarah shrinks to a num- 
ber of pools. But in late summer, when torrential rains fall on the 
Ethiopian plateau, the Atbarah provides 22 percent of the Nile's 

The Blue Nile has a similar pattern. It contributes 17 percent 
of the Nile's waters in the low-water season and 68 percent during 
the high-water season. In contrast, the White Nile provides only 
10 percent of the Nile's waters during the high- water season but 
contributes more than 80 percent during the low- water period. 
Thus, before the Aswan High Dam was completed in 1971, the 
White Nile watered the Egyptian stretch of the river throughout 
the year, whereas the Blue Nile, carrying seasonal rain from Ethio- 
pia, caused the Nile to overflow its banks and deposit a layer of 
fertile mud over adjacent fields. The great flood of the main Nile 
usually occurred in Egypt during August, September, and October, 
but it sometimes began as early as June at Aswan and often did 
not completely wane until January. 

The Nile enters Egypt a few kilometers north of Wadi Haifa, 
a Sudanese town that was completely rebuilt on high ground when 
its original site was submerged in the reservoir created by the Aswan 
High Dam. As a result of the dam's construction, the Nile actual- 
ly begins its flow into Egypt as Lake Nasser, which extends south 
from the dam 320 kilometers to the border and an additional 158 
kilometers into Sudan. Lake Nasser's waters fill the area through 
Lower Nubia (Upper Egypt and northern Sudan) within the nar- 
row gorge between the cliffs of sandstone and granite created by 
the flow of the river over many centuries. Below Aswan the culti- 
vated floodplain strip widens to as much as twenty kilometers. North 
of Isna (160 kilometers north of Aswan), the plateau on both sides 
of the valley rises as high as 550 meters above sea level; at Qina 
(about 90 kilometers north of Isna) the 300-meter limestone cliffs 
force the Nile to change course to the southwest for about 60 kilo- 
meters before turning northwest for about 160 kilometers to Asyut. 
Northward from Asyut, the escarpments on both sides diminish, 
and the valley widens to a maximum of twenty-two kilometers. The 
Nile reaches the Delta at Cairo. 

At Cairo the Nile spreads out over what was once a broad estu- 
ary that has been filled by silt deposits to form a fertile, fan- shaped 
delta about 250 kilometers wide at the seaward base and about 
160 kilometers from north to south. The Nile Delta extends over 


Figurr 3. Natural Regions 


Egypt: A Country Study 

approximately 22,000 square kilometers (roughly equivalent in area 
to Massachusetts). According to historical accounts from the first 
century A.D., seven branches of the Nile once ran through the Del- 
ta. According to later accounts, the Nile had only six branches by 
around the twelfth century. Since then, nature and man have closed 
all but two main outlets: the east branch, Damietta (also seen as 
Dumyat; 240 kilometers long), and the west branch, Rosetta (235 
kilometers long). Both outlets are named after the ports located 
at their mouths. A network of drainage and irrigation canals sup- 
plements these remaining outlets. In the north near the coast, the 
Delta embraces a series of salt marshes and lakes; most notable 
among them are Idku, Al Burullus, and Manzilah. 

The fertility and productivity of the land adjacent to the Nile 
depends largely on the silt deposited by floodwaters. Archaeologi- 
cal research indicates that people once lived at a much higher ele- 
vation along the river than they do today, probably because the 
river was higher or the floods more severe. The timing and the 
amount of annual flow were always unpredictable. Measurements 
of annual flows as low as 1 . 2 billion cubic meters and as high as 
4.25 billion cubic meters have been recorded. For centuries Egyp- 
tians attempted to predict and take advantage of the flows and 
moderate the severity of floods. 

The construction of dams on the Nile, particularly the Aswan 
High Dam, transformed the mighty river into a large and predic- 
table irrigation ditch. Lake Nasser, the world's largest artificial lake, 
has enabled planned use of the Nile regardless of the amount of 
rainfall in Central Africa and East Africa. The dams have also 
affected the Nile Valley's fertility, which was dependent for cen- 
turies not only on the water brought to the arable land but also 
on the materials left by the water. Researchers have estimated that 
beneficial silt deposits in the valley began about 10,000 years ago. 
The average annual deposit of arable soil through the course of 
the river valley was about nine meters. Analysis of the flow re- 
vealed that 10.7 million tons of solid matter passed Cairo each year. 
Today the Aswan High Dam obstructs most of this sediment, which 
is now retained in Lake Nasser. The reduction in annual silt deposits 
has contributed to rising water tables and increasing soil salinity 
in the Delta, the erosion of the river's banks in Upper Egypt, and 
the erosion of the alluvial fan along the shore of the Mediterrane- 
an Sea. 

Western Desert 

The Western Desert covers about 700,000 square kilometers 
(equivalent in size to Texas) and accounts for about two-thirds of 


The Society and Its Environment 

Egypt's land area. This immense desert to the west of the Nile spans 
the area from the Mediterranean Sea south to the Sudanese bor- 
der. The desert's Jilf al Kabir Plateau has an altitude of about 1 ,000 
meters, an exception to the uninterrupted territory of basement 
rocks covered by layers of horizontally bedded sediments forming 
a massive plain or low plateau. The Great Sand Sea lies within 
the desert's plain and extends from the Siwah Oasis to Jilf al Kabir. 
Scarps (ridges) and deep depressions (basins) exist in several parts 
of the Western Desert, and no rivers or streams drain into or out 
of the area. 

The government has considered the Western Desert a frontier 
region and has divided it into two governorates at about the twenty- 
eighth parallel: Matruh to the north and New Valley (Al Wadi al 
Jadid) to the south. There are seven important depressions in the 
Western Desert, and all are considered oases except the largest, 
Qattara, the water of which is salty. The Qattara Depression is 
approximately 15,000 square kilometers (about the size of Con- 
necticut and Rhode Island) and is largely below sea level (its lowest 
point is 133 meters below sea level). Badlands, salt marshes, and 
salt lakes cover the sparsely inhabited Qattara Depression. 

Limited agricultural production, the presence of some natural 
resources, and permanent settlements are found in the other six 
depressions, all of which have fresh water provided by the Nile or 
by local groundwater. The Siwah Oasis, close to the Libyan bor- 
der and west of Qattara, is isolated from the rest of Egypt but has 
sustained life since ancient times. Siwah' s cliff-hung Temple of 
Amun was renowned for its oracles for more than 1,000 years. 
Herodotus and Alexander the Great were among the many illus- 
trious people who visited the temple in the pre-Christian era. 

The other major oases form a topographic chain of basins ex- 
tending from the Al Fayyum Oasis (sometimes called the Fayyum 
Depression) which lies sixty kilometers southwest of Cairo, south 
to the Bahriyah, Farafirah, and Dakhilah oases before reaching 
the country's largest oasis, Kharijah. A brackish lake, Birkat Qa- 
run, at the northern reaches of Al Fayyum Oasis, drained into the 
Nile in ancient times. For centuries sweetwater artesian wells in 
the Fayyum Oasis have permitted extensive cultivation in an ir- 
rigated area that extends over 1,800 square kilometers. 

Eastern Desert 

The topographic features of the region east of the Nile are very 
different from those of the Western Desert. The relatively moun- 
tainous Eastern Desert rises abruptly from the Nile and extends 
over an area of approximately 220,000 square kilometers (roughly 


Egypt: A Country Study 

equivalent in size to Utah). The upward- sloping plateau of sand 
gives way within 100 kilometers to arid, defoliated, rocky hills run- 
ning north and south between the Sudan border and the Delta. 
The hills reach elevations of more than 1,900 meters. The region's 
most prominent feature is the easterly chain of rugged mountains, 
the Red Sea Hills, which extend from the Nile Valley eastward 
to the Gulf of Suez and the Red Sea. This elevated region has a 
natural drainage pattern that rarely functions because of insuffi- 
cient rainfall. It also has a complex of irregular, sharply cut wadis 
that extend westward toward the Nile. 

The Eastern Desert is generally isolated from the rest of the coun- 
try. There is no oasis cultivation in the region because of the 
difficulty in sustaining any form of agriculture. Except for a few 
villages on the Red Sea coast, there are no permanent settlements. 
The importance of the Eastern Desert lies in its natural resources, 
especially oil (see Energy, ch. 3). A single governorate, the capital 
of which is at Al Ghardaqah, administers the entire region. 

Sinai Peninsula 

This triangular area covers about 61,100 square kilometers 
(slightly smaller than West Virginia). Similar to the desert, the 
peninsula contains mountains in its southern sector that are a geo- 
logical extension of the Red Sea Hills, the low range along the Red 
Sea coast that includes Mount Catherine (Jabal Katrinah), the coun- 
try's highest point — 2,642 meters. The Red Sea is named after these 
mountains, which are red. 

The southern side of the peninsula has a sharp escarpment that 
subsides after a narrow coastal shelf that slopes into the Red Sea 
and the Gulf of Aqaba. The elevation of Sinai's southern rim is 
about 1 ,000 meters. Moving northward, the elevation of this lime- 
stone plateau decreases. The northern third of Sinai is a flat, san- 
dy coastal plain, which extends from the Suez Canal into the Gaza 
Strip and Israel. 

Before the Israeli military occupied Sinai during the June 1967 
War (Arab-Israeli war, also known as the Six-Day War), a single 
Egyptian governorate administered the whole peninsula. By 1982 
after all of Sinai was returned to Egypt, the central government 
divided the peninsula into two governorates. North Sinai has its 
capital at Al Arish and the South Sinai has its capital in At Tur. 


Throughout Egypt, days are commonly warm or hot, and nights 
are cool. Egypt has only two seasons: a mild winter from Novem- 
ber to April and a hot summer from May to October. The only 


The Society and Its Environment 

differences between the seasons are variations in daytime temper- 
atures and changes in prevailing winds. In the coastal regions, tem- 
peratures range between an average minimum of 14°C in winter 
and an average maximum of 30 °C in summer. 

Temperatures vary widely in the inland desert areas, especially 
in summer, when they may range from 7°C at night to 43 °C dur- 
ing the day. During winter, temperatures in the desert fluctuate 
less dramatically, but they can be as low as 0°C at night and as 
high as 18°C during the day. 

The average annual temperature increases moving southward 
from the Delta to the Sudanese border, where temperatures are 
similar to those of the open deserts to the east and west. In the 
north, the cooler temperatures of Alexandria during the summer 
have made the city a popular resort. Throughout the Delta and 
the northern Nile Valley, there are occasional winter cold spells 
accompanied by light frost and even snow. At Aswan, in the south, 
June temperatures can be as low as 10°C at night and as high as 
41 °C during the day when the sky is clear. 

Egypt receives fewer than eighty millimeters of precipitation an- 
nually in most areas. Most rain falls along the coast, but even the 
wettest area, around Alexandria, receives only about 200 millimeters 
of precipitation per year. Alexandria has relatively high humidi- 
ty, but sea breezes help keep the moisture down to a comfortable 
level. Moving southward, the amount of precipitation decreases 
suddenly. Cairo receives a little more than one centimeter of precipi- 
tation each year. The city, however, reports humidity as high as 
77 percent during the summer. But during the rest of the year, 
humidity is low. The areas south of Cairo receive only traces of 
rainfall. Some areas will go years without rain and then experience 
sudden downpours that result in flash floods. Sinai receives some- 
what more rainfall (about twelve centimeters annually in the north) 
than the other desert areas, and the region is dotted by numerous 
wells and oases, which support small population centers that for- 
merly were focal points on trade routes. Water drainage toward 
the Mediterranean Sea from the main plateau supplies sufficient 
moisture to permit some agriculture in the coastal area, particu- 
larly near Al Arish. 

A phenomenon of Egypt's climate is the hot spring wind that blows 
across the country. The winds, known to Europeans as the sirocco 
and to Egyptians as the khamsin, usually arrive in April but occa- 
sionally occur in March and May. The winds form in small but 
vigorous low-pressure areas in the Isthmus of Suez and sweep across 
the northern coast of Africa. Unobstructed by geographical features, 
the winds reach high velocities and carry great quantities of sand 


Egypt: A Country Study 

and dust from the deserts. These sandstorms, often accompanied 
by winds of up to 140 kilometers per hour, can cause temperatures 
to rise as much as 20 °C in two hours. The winds blow intermit- 
tently and may continue for days, cause illness in people and animals, 
harm crops, and occasionally damage houses and infrastructure. 


Egypt's population, estimated at 3 million when Napoleon in- 
vaded the country in 1798, has increased at varying rates. The 
population grew gradually and steadily throughout the nineteenth 
century, doubling in size over the course of eighty years. Begin- 
ning in the 1880s, the growth rate accelerated, and the population 
increased more than 600 percent in 100 years. The growth rate 
was especially high after World War II. In 1947 a census indicat- 
ed that Egypt's population was 19 million. A census in 1976 re- 
vealed that the population had ballooned to 36.6 million. After 1976 
the population grew at an annual rate of 2.9 percent and in 1986 
reached a total of 50.4 million, including about 2.3 million Egyp- 
tians working in other countries. Projections indicated the popu- 
lation would reach 60 million by 1996. 

Egypt's population in mid- 1990 was estimated at 52.5 million, 
about an 8 percent increase over the 1986 figure. The increase 
meant that the annual population growth rate had slowed slightly 
to 2.6 percent. Although Egypt's overall population density in 1990 
was only about fifty-four people per square kilometer, close to 99 
percent of all Egyptians lived along the banks of the Nile River 
in 3.5 percent of the country's total area. Average population den- 
sities in the Nile Valley exceeded 1,500 per square kilometer — 
one of the world's highest densities (see fig. 4). 

According to the 1986 census, 51.1 percent of Egypt's popula- 
tion was male and 48.9 percent female. More than 34 percent of 
the population was twelve years old or younger, and 68 percent 
was under age thirty. Fewer than 3 percent of Egyptians were sixty- 
five years or older. In 1989 average life expectancy at birth was 
fifty-nine years for men and sixty years for women. The infant mor- 
tality rate was 94 deaths per 1 ,000 births. Although the urban popu- 
lation has been increasing at a higher rate than the rural population 
since the 1947 census, approximately 51 percent of people still lived 
in villages in 1986. By the end of 1989, however, demographers 
estimated the urban-rural distribution to be equal. 

Population Control Policies 

Egypt's population is very large in relation to the country's natur- 
al resources. Although it is not a perfect measure of the impact 


The Society and Its Environment 

of high population growth rates, the amount of land cultivated by 
the average farmer provides a glimpse at the extent of the problem. 
In slightly more than 150 years (1821-1976), the per capita culti- 
vated area dropped from 0.8 feddan (see Glossary) to 0.27 feddan 
among the rural population. If the urban population is included, 
the per capita cultivated area in 1976 amounted to only 0.15 fed- 
dan. The decline has meant that the same amount of cultivated land 
must feed a continuously increasing population. In 1974 Egypt, 
which had been a net exporter of cereals for centuries, became a 
net importer of food, especially grains. 

As early as 1959, government economists expressed concern 
about the negative impact of high population growth rates on the 
country's development efforts. In 1966 the government initiated 
a nationwide birth control program aimed at reducing the annual 
population growth rate to 2.5 percent or less. Since then state-run 
family planning clinics have distributed birth control information 
and contraceptives. These programs were somewhat successful in 
reducing the population growth rate, but in 1973 the rate began 
to increase again. Population control policies tended to be ineffec- 
tive because most Egyptians, especially in rural areas, valued large 

Major Cities 

Although Egypt's urban history is lengthy, modern urbaniza- 
tion, characterized by massive and continuing rural-to-urban migra- 
tion, is largely a post- World War II phenomenon. Since 1947, 
urban growth rates have averaged about one percentage point 
higher than the rates for rural areas. Thus, for forty years, the ur- 
ban population has been expanding at the rate of 4 percent annu- 
ally. Cairo, the country's capital and largest city, has been affected 
the most by this urbanization. Between 1947 and 1986, the city's 
population grew from 1 . 5 million to more than 6 million (within 
the city's corporate limits). During the same period, the popula- 
tion of Giza (Al Jizah), across the Nile from Cairo, grew even more 
dramatically, from 18,000 to 1.6 million. In 1989 an estimated 10.5 
million people, or 20 percent of all Egyptians, lived in the urban 
agglomeration known as Greater Cairo, which extended along both 
banks of the Nile from Shubra al Khaymah in the north to Hul- 
wan in the south. Within the city's boundaries, the population den- 
sity averaged 26,000 people per square kilometer. In some of the 
more crowded quarters of the city, such as Rawd al Faraj, densi- 
ties were as high as 135,000 per square kilometer. 

Cairo is an ancient city, occupying a site that has been continu- 
ously inhabited for more than 3,500 years. Over the centuries, 


Egypt: A Country Study 

765432 1 1 234 5 67 


Source: Based on information from United States Bureau of the Census; and Population, 
Housing, and Establishment Census, Cairo, 1986, 13, 17. 

Figure 4. Estimated Population Distribution by Age and Sex, 1986 

there have been nine distinct cities where Cairo is located. The 
"modern" city was founded in 969 near the site of ancient Egypt's 
Khere-ohe, better known in the West by its Greek name of Heliopo- 
lis. In Arabic, "Cairo" means "victorious" and is the same name 
used for the planet Mars. Cairo has consistently been a city of pre- 
eminence in the Arab world for more than 1 ,000 years, but its poli- 
tical and economic influence within and beyond Egypt has varied. 
One of its more illustrious periods ran from 1170 to 1345, when 
Cairo became one of the world's largest cities with a population 
of about 500,000. The layout of central Cairo remains similar to 
what it was during that time. Many of the city's renowned 
mosques — there are more than 600 Islamic monuments in Cairo — 
also date back to the medieval period. Cairo's importance derived 
from its role as a center for the production and export of textiles 
and refined sugar and for goods manufactured from cotton, flax, 
and sugarcane. Cairo was also a transshipment center for over- 
land trade from India and Africa to Europe. 

The plague known as the Black Death devastated Cairo and the 
rest of Egypt between 1347 and 1350. The plague killed about 40 
percent of the country's population. 


The Society and Its Environment 

Cairo quickly lost its preeminent role as a transshipment center 
when the Europeans discovered a maritime route to India and 
China around the Cape of Good Hope. Cairo remained Egypt's 
administrative and commercial center, but it experienced relative 
economic stagnation for the next three centuries. By the time 
Napoleon conquered the city in 1798, its population had declined 
to approximately 200,000. 

During the nineteenth century, the rise of the cotton export trade, 
government sponsorship of industrial development, and the com- 
pletion of the construction of the Suez Canal in 1869 revitalized 
Cairo, and the city began to grow again. During the last half of 
the nineteenth century, the French approach to urban planning 
changed Cairo's layout. Egypt's ruler, Ismail (1863-79), had been 
educated in France and aspired to have his capital rival Paris. To 
coincide with the ceremonies for the opening of the Suez Canal, 
Ismail proposed a design for "modern" Cairo. The proposal in- 
cluded a wooden replica of La Scala opera house in Milan. The 
structure was to host the premier of Giuseppe Verdi's opera Aida. 
Ismail's efforts to build a modern Cairo resulted in a separation — 
still apparent today — between the western part of the city, called 
Al Izbakiya Gardens (which is European) and the eastern part 
(which is Arabic). 

Cairo has continued to grow rapidly since 1850, when its popu- 
lation was approximately 250,000. By 1930 the population had 
reached 1 million. Throughout the twentieth century, it has been 
the most populous city in Africa and the Arab world. Cairo's de- 
velopment has been most intense since World War II, and has 
resulted in a variety of problems. The city's population, growing 
about 300,000 per year in the 1980s, has strained urban services 
to the breaking point. Public transportation was woefully inade- 
quate in the late 1980s, with about one of every four buses out of 
commission at any given time. Public water supplies, sewer facili- 
ties, and trash collection were all overburdened (see Urban Socie- 
ty, this ch.). Housing was perhaps the most pressing problem because 
persistent shortages of skilled labor and construction materials ham- 
pered efforts to build residential units quickly enough to meet de- 
mand. The demand for moderately priced housing was especially 
high. Some people resorted to clandestine and semilegal housing 
arrangements; as many as 200,000 wooden, cardboard, and metal 
huts were constructed on the roofs of apartment buildings. An esti- 
mated 500,000 people were living in the mausoleums in the city's 

Alexandria is Egypt's second largest city. Located on the coast- 
line of the Mediterranean Sea, it has been an important port ever 


Egypt: A Country Study 

since it was founded by Alexander the Great more than 2,300 years 
ago. The city declined dramatically during the sixteenth to eigh- 
teenth centuries when its maritime trade with Europe virtually 
ceased as a result of new sea routes around Africa to India. When 
the French landed at Alexandria in 1798, barely 10,000 people lived 
in the city. Alexandria grew substantially in the nineteenth century 
because of industrialization and Egypt's emergence as an exporter 
of agricultural commodities to Europe. Between 1821 and 1846, 
Alexandria's population grew from 12,500 to 164,000. By the end 
of the century, its population had almost doubled to 320,000. 
Between 1947 and 1986, Alexandria's population grew from 700,000 
to 2.7 million. 

In 1990 Alexandria was a major industrial center that included 
two large oil refineries; chemical, cement, and metal plants; tex- 
tile mills; and food processing operations. Alexandria is also the 
country's most important harbor for exports and imports. 

Egypt's third and fourth largest cities, Giza and Shubra al Khay- 
mah, are part of Greater Cairo. The rapid growth of these cities 
since 1947 is directly related to the growth of Cairo. Giza (1986 popu- 
lation 1.6 million), opposite the Nile River island of Ar Rawdah, 
is the location of Cairo University and the famed Pyramids of Giza. 
Shubra al Khaymah (1986 population 500,000), on the Nile north 
of Cairo's Bulaq quarter, is a manufacturing suburb with a heavy 
concentration of textile factories. 

As of 1989, Egypt had nine other cities with populations great- 
er than 200,000. In the Delta were Al Mahallah al Kubra with a 
population of 375,000, Tanta with 365,000, Al Mansurah with 
335,000, Az Zaqaziqwith 260,000, and Damanhur with 215,000. 
These five cities were local administrative, commercial, and 
manufacturing centers. At the northern and southern termini of the 
Suez Canal were Port Said with a population of 358,000 and Suez 
with 271 ,000. In Upper Egypt were Asyut on the Nile with a popu- 
lation of 250,000 and Al Fayyum, an oasis with a population of 
215,000. Five other cities had populations ranging between 150,00 
and 200,000. These included Al Minya, Aswan, and Bani Suwayf 
in Upper Egypt; Kafr ad Dawwar in the Delta; and Ismailia (Al 
Ismailiyah) on the Suez Canal. 


The 1986 census estimated that 2.25 million Egyptian nationals 
were working outside the country. Only small numbers of Egyp- 
tians, primarily professionals, had left the country in search of em- 
ployment before 1974. Then, in that year, the government lifted 
all restrictions on labor migration. The move came at a time when 


The Society and Its Environment 

oil-rich Arab states of the Persian Gulf and neighboring Libya were 
implementing major development programs with funds generated 
by the quadrupling of oil revenues in 1973. By 1975 an estimated 
500,000 Egyptians, mostly single, unskilled men, were working on 
construction sites in Libya, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United 
Arab Emirates. At least 50,000 others were employed elsewhere 
in the Middle East. By 1980 more than 1 million Egyptians were 
working abroad. That number doubled by 1982. The emergence 
of foreign job opportunities alleviated some of the pressure on 
domestic employment. Many of these workers sent a significant 
portion of their earnings to their families in Egypt. As early as 1979, 
these remittances amounted to US$2 billion, a sum equivalent to 
the country's combined earnings from cotton exports, Suez Canal 
transit fees, and tourism (see Remittances, ch. 3). 

The foreign demand for Egyptian labor peaked in 1983, at which 
time an estimated 3.28 million Egyptians workers were employed 
abroad. After that year, political and economic developments in 
the Arab oil-producing countries caused a retrenchment in employ- 
ment opportunities. The Iran-Iraq War and the decline in oil prices 
forced the Persian Gulf oil industry into a recession, which caused 
many Egyptians to lose their jobs. Up to 1 million workers returned 
home. Most of the expatriate workforce remained abroad but new 
labor migration from Egypt slowed considerably. In late 1989, the 
number of Egyptian workers abroad still exceeded 2.2 million. 

The majority of Egyptian labor migrants expected to return home 
eventually, but thousands left their country each year with the in- 
tention of permanentiy resetding in various Arab countries, Europe, 
or North America. These emigrants tended to be highly educated 
professionals, mostly doctors, engineers, and teachers. Their depar- 
ture caused a serious "brain drain" for Egypt. Iraq and, to a lesser 
extent, Kuwait were the Arab countries most likely to accept skilled 
Egyptians as permanent residents. Iraq, which sought agriculturists 
trained in irrigation techniques, encouraged Egyptian farmers to 
move to the sparsely populated but fertile lands in the south. Out- 
side of the Arab countries, the United States was a preferred desti- 
nation. Between 1970 and 1985, about 45,000 Egyptians immigrated 
to the United States. 

In 1989 there were several thousand Americans, Europeans, and 
other non- Arabs in Egypt working on projects sponsored by for- 
eign governments, international agencies, and private charitable 
groups. The United States stationed more than 2,000 diplomatic 
personnel in the country. The majority of these personnel worked 
for the United States Agency for International Development (AID), 
which managed the largest of the many economic aid programs in 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Egypt. Projects financed by AID during the 1980s included irri- 
gation networks, rural sanitation systems, pest control, family plan- 
ning, and communications development. 

Since 1948 Egypt has been a haven for Arab refugees and polit- 
ical dissidents. The number of exiles has fluctuated in response to 
political developments in other Arab countries and to Egypt's re- 
lations with the different regimes. In 1989 Egypt was host to several 
thousand Palestinian refugees and hundreds of exiles from Libya, 
Sudan, and various countries of the Arabian Peninsula, especially 
the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) and the People's 
Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen). Egyptian accu- 
sations that Libya had sponsored terrorist acts against Libyan ex- 
iles in Egypt fueled tension between the two countries in the late 
1970s and 1980s. 


Although the ancestors of the Egyptian people include many races 
and ethnic groups, among them Africans, Arabs, Berbers, Greeks, 
Persians, Romans, and Turks, the population today is relatively 
homogeneous linguistically and culturally. Nevertheless, approxi- 
mately 3 percent of Egyptians belong to minority groups. Linguistic 
minorities include small communities of Armenians and Greeks, 
principally in the cities of Cairo and Alexandria; groups of Berber 
origin in the oases of the Western Desert; and Nubians living in 
cities in Lower Egypt and in villages clustered along the Nile in 
Upper Egypt. The Arabic- speaking beduins (nomads) in the 
Western and Eastern Deserts and the Sinai Peninsula constitute 
the principal cultural minority. Several hundred Europeans, mostly 
Italians and French, also lived in Egypt. 

In 1989 an estimated 350,000 Greeks constituted Egypt's lar- 
gest non-Arab minority. Greeks have lived in Egypt since before 
the time of Alexander the Great. For centuries they have remained 
culturally, linguistically, and religiously separate from the Egyp- 
tians. In 1990 the majority of Greeks lived in Alexandria, although 
many resided in Cairo. 

Armenians have also lived in Egypt for several centuries, although 
their numbers have declined as a result of heavy emigration since 
the 1952 Revolution. In 1989 the Armenian community in Egypt 
was estimated at 12,000. Cairo was traditionally the center of Arme- 
nian culture in Egypt, but many Armenians also lived in Alex- 

An estimated 6,000 Egyptians of Berber origin lived in the 
Western Desert near the border with Libya. They were ethnically 
related to the Berber peoples of North Africa. The largest Berber 


The Society and Its Environment 

community lived in Siwah Oasis. The Berbers are Muslims, but 
they have their own language, which is not related to Arabic, and 
certain unique cultural practices. 

About 160,000 Nubians, also Muslims, lived in Egypt in 1990. 
Most Nubians lived in cities, especially Cairo, Alexandria, and ur- 
ban areas along the Suez Canal. In the past, Nubians had lived in 
villages along the Nile from Aswan southward to about 500 kilo- 
meters inside Sudan. Before the construction of the Aswan High 
Dam forced their resettlement, three linguistically separate groups 
of Nubians lived in this region — the Kenuzi in northern Nubia; 
the beduin-descended Arabs in central Nubia; and the Fadija- 
speaking people in southern Nubia near Abu Simbel (Abu Sun- 
bul). Isolated geographically and politically for centuries, the Nubian 
Valley was only rarely under the control of any central govern- 
ment. Until Egypt's 1952 Revolution, Nubia lacked strong politi- 
cal links with Lower Egypt. Nevertheless, Nubia had persistent 
economic ties to the rest of Egypt. Since at least the nineteenth 
century, Nubian men have migrated to the cities of Lower Egypt, 
where they typically worked for several years at a time as merchants 
and wage laborers. Nubian society adapted to the migrants' 
prolonged absences. Complex kinship and property relations ena- 
bled men to leave and still take care of their families, guard their 
wives, and ensure protection of their herds and crops. 

After 1952 the central government increased its involvement in 
Nubia, mosdy by building schools and public health services. With 
the construction of the Aswan High Dam, the government's poli- 
cies in the area destroyed Nubia, as water inundated the Nubian 
Valley. In 1963 and 1964 the government resettled approximately 
50,000 Nubians to thirty- three villages around Kawm Umbu, about 
fifty kilometers north of the city of Aswan. As compensation, the 
government gave the Nubians new land and homes and provided 
them with some financial support until their new holdings were 

Nubians were dissatisfied with their resettlement for several rea- 
sons. They did not like their government-built, cement-block 
houses, which were uncomfortable and vastly different in design 
from their old homes. Further, their resettlement at Kawm Umbu 
disrupted family ties and ignored historical rivalries among the three 
Nubian ethnic groups. The government also required the Nubian 
farmers to join agricultural cooperatives and pressured them to cul- 
tivate sugarcane, a crop that had not been part of their traditional 
culture. Dissatisfaction with the resettlement program led many 
to migrate to cities. A large number of migrants rented their land 
to sharecroppers and tenants from Upper Egypt. After the Aswan 


Egypt: A Country Study 

High Dam was completed in 1971, a handful of Nubians left the 
resettlement area and returned to Nubia, where they established 
farming villages along the shores of Lake Nasser. By the early 1980s, 
Nubians had constructed at least four villages, complete with tradi- 
tional homes. 

Egypt's largest minority group consisted of several tribes of bed- 
uins who traditionally lived in the Eastern and Western Deserts 
and the Sinai Peninsula. Because the beduins spoke Arabic dialects, 
the government did not consider them ethnic minorities. Neverthe- 
less, almost everyone in Egypt — including the beduins — considered 
these people as culturally distinct. The beduins have historically 
been nomads, but since the nineteenth century, most tribes have 
adopted sedentary agricultural life-styles, in response to various 
government incentives (see Social Organization, this ch.). Among 
the beduins, traditional tribal social structure comprised lineage 
segments linked to specific territories, water, and pasture. Descent 
was patrilineal, and most beduins sought patterns of kinship and 
marriage that would strengthen the bonds between patrilineally 
related males. A patrilineage acted as a corporate group that shared 
the home territory's resources and lived together for most of the 
year. In the event of a feud, the group would collectively seek 
revenge, either through the death of the other group's males or 
through collective payment of compensation. A family's livelihood 
depended on its sheep, goats, and camels. Inheritance customs 
usually kept the family herds in the hands of fathers, sons, brothers, 
and cousins related through the male line. 

In 1 990 the total number of beduins in Egypt ranged between 
500,000 and 1 million — less than 1 percent of the country's popu- 
lation. Over the centuries, their numbers fluctuated as governments 
alternately ignored and persecuted them. In the 1890s, beduins 
comprised as much as 10 percent of the total population. During 
the twentieth century, sedentarization and urban migration have 
caused many beduins to become assimilated into Egypt's dominant 

Since the 1952 Revolution, Egypt has intensified its efforts to 
persuade beduins to abandon their nomadic life-style. The beduins 
of the Western Desert generally resisted pressure to become farm- 
ers. Some beduins engaged in the profitable trade of smuggling 
goods across the Libyan border into Egypt while others became 
involved in the hotel and restaurant business in the summer tourist 
town of Marsa Matruh. The beduins in the Eastern Desert con- 
tinued to maintain close ties with nomads on the Arabian Penin- 
sula and profited from the high demand for meat and livestock in 
Saudi Arabia. The Aswan High Dam submerged some summer 


The Society and Its Environment 

pasture and disrupted some migratory routes along the Red Sea 
coast that beduins customarily used in bringing their herds to Nu- 
bia during that season. Beduin settlements tended to be overcrowd- 
ed, a situation that exacerbated feuding among various lineages. 
And, as beduin herds encroached on cropland, friction between 
agriculturists and pastoralists intensified. An increasing number of 
beduin families began to emulate tribal leaders by sending sons 
to college to prepare them for civil service careers in local govern- 

Social Organization 

In 1990 Egypt remained under the social, political, and cultural 
dominance of an elite, a pattern it has retained since pharaonic 
(see Glossary) times. Although the personal, ideological orienta- 
tion, and cultural values of the ruling class changed drastically after 
the 1952 Revolution, the gulf between the urban elite and the popu- 
lar masses remained large. A group called the Free Officers came 
to power in 1952. The group, which included people such as Gamal 
Abdul Nasser (former president of Egypt), Anwar as Sadat (also 
former president of Egypt), and Husni Mubarak (current presi- 
dent of Egypt), played an instrumental role in carrying out the 1952 
Revolution. The Free Officers, along with their civilian allies, com- 
prised a strongly nationalistic cadre who believed the former rul- 
ing class had betrayed the country's welfare to foreign interests. 
The Free Officers, many of whom were not from the top social 
classes, altered the country's structure of wealth and power. But 
according to some scholars, the Free Officers' policies merely 
changed the membership of the elite rather than causing its demise. 

The prerevolutionary elite rose to their position of power through 
the country's entry into the world agricultural commodity market 
in the nineteenth century (see Rural Society, this ch.). The upper 
classes consisted of the royal family, absentee landlords, profes- 
sionals, and business people (merchants, fmanciers, and a few in- 
dustrialists). A disproportionately large number of foreigners 
belonged to the elite groups in Cairo and Alexandria. Opportuni- 
ties for social mobility changed in response to the transformation 
of the country's economy. A prosperous landowning family, for 
example, might choose to secure its status by sending one son to 
Al Azhar University for a career in religion and another to one 
of the newly established secular universities while encouraging still 
another to manage the family's estates. 

The civil bureaucracy established by Muhammad Ali (1805-49) 
and elaborated under British hegemony provided a career for sons 
of middle- and upper middle-class families. It gave employment 


Egypt: A Country Study 

to the growing number of Egyptian professionals (mostly lawyers, 
doctors, and engineers) and fueled the expansion of secular edu- 
cation. The government bureaucracy employed the sons of land- 
lords, of prosperous farmers, and of civil servants themselves. 

Despite the major social changes in Egypt between 1800 and 
1950, the upper-class elite continued to dominate politics in the 
country. The educated middle class increasingly resented the elite's 
control of government. This resentment was particularly strong 
among military officers because their middle-class origins impeded 
their advancement to the top decision-making ranks. Among these 
military officers were the Free Officers. 

Egypt's new political elite pledged to rid the country of foreign 
influences and to broaden economic opportunities for the general 
population. Nasser implemented numerous socialist policies designed 
to alter the pattern of class stratification. The June 1967 War, how- 
ever, halted government initiatives for redistributing wealth. Begin- 
ning in 1974, the government introduced a series of laws intended 
to restore and promote private ownership of previously socialized 
sectors of the economy. These new policies, known as infitah (open- 
ing or open door; see Glossary), helped consolidate the class struc- 
ture. In 1990 Egypt continued to be a country with a skewed 
distribution of wealth; about 2,000 families had annual incomes 
in excess of £E35,000 (for the value of the Egyptian pound — see 
Glossary) while more than 4 million people earned less than £E200. 

Urban Society 

Although the majority of Egyptians lived in villages as recently 
as 1988, cities, which have been important in Egypt for more than 
2,000 years, continued to be important. Traditional urban society 
was more heterogeneous than in most other areas of the Middle 
East. Quarters, segregated along religious and occupational lines, 
were effectively self-governing in their internal affairs. As in vil- 
lages, kinship relations provided a basis for solidarity, and rela- 
tionships among families frequently overrode differences in wealth 
and social position. Prosperous families assumed leadership roles 
and took responsibility for their less fortunate kin and neighbors. 
The rapid urbanization that began in the nineteenth century created 
large residential and industrial suburbs and led to the emergence 
of a professional middle class and a working class. Nevertheless, 
elite wealthy families that had ruled Egypt for generations, and 
in some cases for centuries, continued to dominate the cities until 
the early 1950s. 

The postrevolutionary ruling elite was believed by many to have 
come from rural backgrounds. In reality most of the elite came 


The Society and Its Environment 

from the urban middle class and were sons of mid- and low-ranking 
bureaucrats. A few members of the new elite came from the ranks 
of the old elite, although most influential members of the new elite 
were military officers. Most of these officers held positions in the 
government agencies that were in charge of national security, but 
others also held important positions in local government and the 
diplomatic service. Below the top echelons of government, however, 
the military played a less important role. This situation was reflected 
in the fact that since 1952, only about 6 percent of individuals in 
lower-level administrative posts had attended a military college. 
Educated bureaucrats from the middle and upper-middle classes 
continued to fill the bulk of civil service posts. Since 1952 three 
of every four bureaucrats have come from cities, with one of every 
two coming from Cairo. About a third had fathers who were civil 
servants. Although the military's formal presence in the bureaucracy 
was limited, officers clearly made the most important decisions. 
The emergence of a military elite led to a new kind of civil ser- 
vant, the officer- technocrat. Politically ambitious professionals had 
a significant incentive to join the officers corps, and officers were 
motivated to acquire professional training (see Training and Edu- 
cation, ch. 5). 

Although the prerevolutionary elite lost its status as the ruling 
class, it was not eliminated. The land redistribution program of 
the 1950s and socialist policies of the 1960s compelled many old 
elite families to sell agricultural and industrial properties that had 
been important sources of their wealth. Nevertheless, most of these 
families were able to maintain their social and economic positions 
through their domination of the prestigious professions. The old 
elite had highly valued education before the revolution, and many 
families had sent at least one son abroad for professional training. 
Thus, the old elite had lost its political influence after the 1952 Revo- 
lution, but its investments in education enabled its offspring to 
emerge as the doctors, engineers, and top-level administrators of 
the new regime. 

After 1974 the government encouraged the growth of private en- 
terprise through infitah policies, and a large number of people from 
old elite families emerged as part of a new class of wealthy con- 
tractors, financiers, and industrialists. Many of these people, who 
had held senior-level civil service positions, switched to private prac- 
tice, industry, or commerce because their government salaries had 
been relatively low. A person holding a ministerial-level position 
in government could earn up to 1,000 percent more by taking a 
post in the private sector. Joint ventures between Egyptian and 
foreign firms, partnerships for Egyptians in foreign firms, and 


Egypt: A Country Study 

commissions for Egyptians dealing with private companies all con- 
tributed to the formation of a new entrepreneurial class. By 1990 
prerevolutionary elite families remained financially secure and so- 
cially prominent and had regained some political influence. 

The middle class, emulating the old elite, recognized the link be- 
tween higher education and prestigious civil service jobs. The govern- 
ment, which had initiated the development of secular education as 
part of the effort to staff the civil bureaucracy with trained person- 
nel, has provided a secure, well-paid position to virtually every 
college-educated applicant since the 1920s. Prior to the 1952 Rev- 
olution, postsecondary education was costiy, and middle-class 
families who were determined to send at least one son to college 
usually endured considerable financial hardship. Most middle-class 
youth could not afford to attend college, but they could still gain 
entry into the less prestigious, lower civil-service ranks by obtain- 
ing a high school diploma. Before 1950 secondary schools were not 
free, but middle-class families could generally afford the fees. As 
an increasing number of middle-class high school graduates sought 
government employment, the bureaucracy became overstaffed with 
poorly paid, white-collar workers who had little prospect of advance- 
ment into top administrative positions, most of which were held 
by university graduates. Frustration among low-ranking civil ser- 
vants was an important factor leading to the 1952 Revolution. 

After the 1952 Revolution, the Free Officers increased career- 
advancement opportunities in government, improved pay scales 
in the civil service, and expanded public education opportunities 
at all levels. To meet middle-class demands for equitable access 
to higher education, the government abolished college and univer- 
sity fees and introduced competitive admission based on special 
entrance examinations. The state continued to be the principal 
employer of college graduates. A government decree in 1964 re- 
quired the civil service to offer jobs to all Egyptians holding degrees 
from postsecondary colleges and institutes. During the early and 
mid-1960s, when Egypt's economy was socialized, the public sec- 
tor employed thousands of new mid- and upper-rank administra- 
tors, as well as tens of thousands of high school graduates. The 
annual increase in the number of university graduates soon greatly 
exceeded the number of positions available in the civil service. By 
the mid-1970s, the civil service employed more than 1.3 million 
people, and overstaffing became a serious problem in all govern- 
ment ministries. After the government introduced the infitah in 
1974, it no longer felt obliged to hire every college graduate. In- 
dividual ministries determined the number of new positions that 
needed to be filled each year; once the quota was met, the names 


The Society and Its Environment 

of other applicants were placed on waiting lists. During the 1980s, 
an average of 250,000 college graduates were waiting at any given 
time to be called for government jobs; the typical applicant remained 
on the waiting list for more than three years. This situation caused 
unrest among middle- and lower-middle-income students who had 
hoped that higher education would be their ticket to upward mobility. 

Whereas the middle class was preoccupied with education and 
civil service careers, most urban Egyptians, who belonged to the 
lower class, were concerned about earning a livelihood in an econ- 
omy characterized by persistent and extensive unemployment and 
underemployment (see Employment, ch. 3). In terms of occupa- 
tions and incomes, the lower class was very heterogeneous and com- 
prised three main groups: service providers, skilled workers, and 
unskilled laborers. The first group included artisans, bakers, bar- 
bers, butchers, carpenters, office and sales clerks, cobblers, drivers, 
household and hotel domestic workers, janitors, small shopkeep- 
ers, tailors, street vendors, waiters, and numerous other providers 
of urban services. The majority of service workers were involved 
in the large informal sector of the economy; they were not covered 
by minimum wage laws and did not participate in the social secu- 
rity program. A few service workers, primarily talented artisans 
and enterprising shopkeepers, earned sufficient money to support 
a family without the assistance of a second income; the more suc- 
cessful among them actually merged into the lower middle class. 
The majority of service workers, however, were generally unable 
to provide adequate food and shelter for a family on the income 
from one job. 

The second lower-class group consisted of skilled workers who 
were usually employed in private or public factories. Many also 
worked in the construction industry as electricians, masons, 
mechanics, painters, and plumbers. Workers in this group tended 
to prefer jobs in the public sector, which employed approximately 
42 percent of the industrial labor force in the 1980s, because 
government-owned manufacturing enterprises guaranteed job secu- 
rity, paid salaries that were at or above the legal minimum wage, 
and provided benefits such as routine promotions, raises, paid holi- 
days, and sick leave. Most skilled workers were generally more 
financially secure than most service workers. Nevertheless, the typi- 
cal working male who headed a household found it difficult to sup- 
port a family on one income. To supplement family incomes, most 
workers held two jobs, permitted their wives or unmarried daugh- 
ters to work, or received remittances from family members work- 
ing abroad. Many skilled workers also migrated to other Arab 
countries where they received higher salaries. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Unskilled laborers comprised the poorest stratum of urban soci- 
ety. Most of them either lacked permanent jobs or were employed 
in low-wage, menial jobs such as street sweeping, trash collection, 
sewage-system maintenance, and grave digging. Males with no skills 
frequently found temporary work on construction sites, especially 
in Greater Cairo. Intermittent work was also available on the docks 
of Alexandria and the cities along the Suez Canal. During the 1980s, 
unskilled workers headed most of the estimated 35 percent of ur- 
ban households with incomes below the poverty line. According 
to a study by AID, about half of Egypt's urban population lived 
in absolute poverty, and most of these lived in households headed 
by unskilled workers. 

The infitah generally had an adverse impact on the lower class. 
Despite the substantial rise in wages after the mid-1970s, real in- 
comes failed to keep pace with the rampant inflation. Although 
extensive government subsidies on basic necessities alleviated the 
worst effects of inflation, most lower-class families spent up to 75 
percent of their budgets on food. When the government announced 
in January 1977 that it would eliminate subsidies on selected "lux- 
ury" items, including beer, French bread, refined flour, and granu- 
lated sugar, the poor rioted in cities throughout the Delta and Nile 
Valley. In Cairo the police were unable to control the violence, 
and the government called in the army to restore order. The govern- 
ment canceled its plan to abolish certain subsidies, and since 1977, 
it has periodically expanded the whole subsidy program. 

In addition to the food subsidies, some members of the lower- 
class benefited from remittances sent to them from family members 
who were working abroad. About nine of every ten Egyptians work- 
ing in other countries were from the lower class. At least 1 million 
poor families received remittances from fathers or sons who were 
working in Libya or the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf. The 
remittances raised household incomes by between 100 percent and 
700 percent, resulting in significantly higher living standards. The 
absence of so many workers had also created a general shortage 
of trained personnel, a situation that permitted skilled workers to 
bargain for increasingly higher wages. In the early 1980s, for ex- 
ample, a free-lance tile-setter could earn about as much in one week 
as a government minister could earn in a month. 

Although the living standards of poor families receiving remit- 
tances improved after 1974, the lower class, like the middle class, 
was generally skeptical of the infitah. Both classes benefited from 
Nasser's policies, which expanded access to education and employ- 
ment opportunities, but they generally believed that reduced govern- 
ment spending on social programs, pared public sector employment, 


The Society and Its Environment 

and increased incentives for private enterprise would undermine 
gains achieved in the 1950s and 1960s. The upper class, which ac- 
counted for less than 10 percent of the total population, supported 
the infitah because they benefited from policies aimed at easing 
import-export restrictions and from programs designed to attract 
foreign investment. 

Rural Society 

Until the time of Napoleon's invasion, Mamluk fief holders, large 
landowners, and the chiefs of nomadic tribes controlled rural Egypt. 
This rural elite — a small fraction of the populace — derived its wealth 
from land, livestock, and the collection of taxes on commission. 
Beduin shaykhs lived among and were related to the tribal people 
over whom they exercised jurisdiction. The large landowners lived 
in villages and were usually related to some of the other families. 
The fief holders, predominantly Turkish and Circassian in origin, 
had the most tenuous links to the villages because they tended to 
reside in cities and often brutalized the peasants on their estates. 
Most fellahin (sing., fellah; peasant, from the Arabic verb, falaha, 
to till the soil), were socioeconomically similar. Village headmen 
allocated families usufruct right to village land, but the village as 
a whole was responsible for tax payments. 

Rural society changed during the nineteenth century. Rulers 
made it easier for individuals to own land, and they held individu- 
als responsible for tax payments. Large land grants to court favorites 
and extensive land registration frauds resulted in concentrated land- 
holdings and an increased number of people who owned large pieces 
of land. During this period, the government gave tribal shaykhs 
substantial land grants but required that they permanently farm 
and occupy their parcels. The move caused many beduins to give 
up their nomadic way of life. Settled beduins gradually became 
liable for the same taxes imposed on the fellahin. 

Granting land (and government administrative posts) only to 
shaykhs undermined tribal loyalty and solidarity. The process created 
a class of wealthy landholders within tribes, and the landlord-tenant 
relationship proved inimical to the strongly egalitarian traditions 
of beduin society. As tribal loyalties weakened, shaykhs began mar- 
rying prosperous settled Egyptian women, while poorer nomads 
married within the masses of peasants. Many of the beduin and 
nontribal owners of large amounts of land pursued economic op- 
portunities in the growing cities and became absentee landlords. 
Many absentee landlords specialized in commodity trading and con- 
trolled Egypt's expanding agricultural exports. They also became 
involved in the urban credit market. The fellahin sharecroppers 


Egypt: A Country Study 

who tilled the land of absentee owners became increasingly indebted 
to the local, usually usurious, moneylenders because their share 
of crops generally provided insufficient income to support a family 
for the entire period between harvests. 

Private ownership of land and increased production of export 
crops, especially cotton, also resulted in the emergence of land- 
holders, who owned mid-sized plots of five to fifty feddans. This 
group competed only marginally with the landed elite but was 
prosperous by rural standards. In 1990 these mid-sized land- 
owners continued to play an integral role in rural society. 

Class differentiation increased among the fellahin throughout 
the nineteenth century. Small landholders with one to five feddans 
became poorer but were better off than tenants and sharecroppers. 
The tenants and sharecroppers were better off than a growing class 
of landless villagers who earned their livelihoods from casual agricul- 
tural labor. (By the end of the nineteenth century, one of every 
four people in rural areas owned no land.) Landowners who be- 
came indebted or fell into tax arrears easily lost their holdings. Until 
1926 the government could expropriate land if its owner owed as 
little as £E2 in back taxes. 

From the mid-nineteenth to the mid- twentieth century, large 
estates continued to consolidate their holdings while small farms 
fragmented further with each passing generation. From 1896 to 
the eve of the first land-reform legislation in 1952, the number of 
landowners with parcels of fewer than five feddans had nearly tri- 
pled. The number of large landowners with holdings of at least 
fifty feddans declined gradually in the same period. Large landowners 
controlled 33 percent of all cultivated land by 1952 (only 0.5 per- 
cent of all landowners were large landowners). In contrast, about 
75 percent of all rural property owners were peasants with hold- 
ings of less than one feddan. This group owned only 13 percent of 
the land. The average-sized holding in the under- five feddan range 
dropped by 50 percent. The number of mid-sized holders (owning 
six to fifty feddans) dropped from about 1 2 percent to 5 percent of 
all landowners, although their share of cultivated land remained 
nearly constant at 30 percent. 

Frequent incidents of peasant unrest accompanied the changes 
in rural Egypt. Peasant uprisings, which were usually localized, 
were all sparked by complaints such as high taxes, intolerable land- 
lord imposts, corvees, foreclosures, and rising rents. Some pro- 
tests spread throughout a district or region and required extensive 
military intervention to restore control. Uprisings often took on 
religious or messianic overtones. By 1950 when an estimated 60 
percent of the rural population was landless, it was not uncommon 


The Society and Its Environment 

for groups of discontented sharecroppers and tenants to try to seize 
the land they cultivated. 

The Free Officers made land reform a priority after the 1952 
Revolution. Continuing into the 1960s, the Free Officers promul- 
gated measures that distributed about 700,000 feddans of land to 
about 318,000 peasant households, i.e., 13 percent of the cultivated 
land to 10 percent of the country's rural families. A law in 1952 
limited individual landownership to 200 feddans. The law also 
prevented owners from transferring more than 100 feddans to mem- 
bers of their immediate families; excess holdings had to be sold 
to small farmers or tenants. The law also limited the amount of 
cash rents and the percentage of the harvest that absentee owners 
could collect from tenants and sharecroppers. A law in 1961 limited 
individual ownership to 100 feddans; another law in 1969 limited 
it to 50 feddans. These land reforms failed to eliminate large land- 
owners, but they did reduce the group's share of cultivated land 
from 33 percent of the total to 15 percent between 1952 and 1975. 

Peasant smallholders (with fewer than five feddans) were the main 
beneficiaries of the reforms. In 1952 they owned about 35 percent 
(2.1 million feddans) of Egypt's cultivated land. By 1965 they owned 
52 percent (3.2 million feddans). Although several thousand tenant 
and sharecropping families were able to purchase tiny parcels (none 
greater than five feddans) and join the ranks of smallholders, the 
majority of landless villagers did not benefit from the reforms. Land- 
lords' creativity in exploiting the surplus rural labor market thwarted 
government efforts to assist these landless villagers. Landlords also 
learned how to circumvent legislation designed to guarantee share- 
croppers half of the harvest. By the 1980s, the combination of rapid 
population growth, increasing production costs, and high rates of 
inflation had eroded the gains of the smallholders. An estimated 
44 percent of all rural families lived below the officially defined 
poverty level. 

Peasants who owned between eleven and fifty feddans were able 
to increase their landholdings by purchasing excess land from large 
landlords. This group of peasants comprised 2.5 percent of all land- 
owners in 1952 and 3 percent in 1965. By the latter date, this group 
owned 24 percent of all cultivated land. 

In 1990 rural society was just as stratified as it had been before 
the initiation of land reform in 1952. Approximately 11,000 large 
landowners (those owning more than fifty feddans — less than 0.3 
percent of all owners) were still at the top of the social hierarchy. 
These large landowners were typically absentee landlords and 
renters who worked in urban areas as merchants, civil servants, 
professionals, or corporate managers. Although wealthy, they lacked 


Egypt: A Country Study 

the prerevolutionary landowning elite's influence in rural areas, 
and their impact on village social relations tended to be limited. 
Nevertheless, they continued to be influential in national politics 
and exercised indirect influence in rural areas through their diverse 
ties to large peasant owners. 

The second stratum of rural landowners consisted of two peasant 
groups, medium holders owning six to ten feddans and large holders 
owning eleven to fifty feddans. Although this second stratum ac- 
counted for only 5.5 percent of all rural landowners, it owned one- 
third of all the cultivated land. Both groups' holdings were large 
enough to generate profits from agriculture, and the more prosper- 
ous individuals among the groups tended to fill the political role 
previously held by the large landlords. Large peasant owners in 
particular exercised significant influence in local and even region- 
al politics. The large holders tended to be commercial farmers with 
extensive ties to domestic capital and were frequently involved in 
subsidiary marketing, livestock, and transport enterprises. In most 
villages, at least one of the peasant families with medium or large 
landholdings was descended from a lineage that most members of 
the community considered superior. Farmers in this second stra- 
tum have also experienced substantial occupational mobility since 
1952. A typical family with several sons would send one or more 
of them to university to prepare for careers in the civil service, the 
military, or the professions. 

Peasant smallholders (those owning fewer than five feddans) com- 
prised 94 percent of all Egyptian landowners. In general, holdings 
of fewer than five feddans were too small for profitable agriculture. 
Consequently, smallholders had to supplement their incomes by 
working on the land of larger owners, by engaging in other agricul- 
tural activities such as raising livestock, or by finding seasonal work 
in urban areas. Many smallholders rented their plots for part or 
all of the year to other peasants, especially to those who owned be- 
tween five and ten feddans. About one-quarter of all land owned 
by smallholders was leased to larger owners. 

Since 1952 there have been no reliable statistics on the number 
of landless villagers. Although landlessness decreased between 1952 
and 1965, it ha*s been rising since the late 1960s. Throughout Egypt 
the landless constituted perhaps as much as 40 percent of the rural 
population; the majority lived in the villages of the Delta and Up- 
per Egypt. Landless peasants supported their families by cultivat- 
ing land for absentee owners as tenants and sharecroppers; by 
working as agricultural laborers for large peasant owners; by provid- 
ing village services such as carpentry, blacksmithing, machinery 
maintenance, and livestock herding; and by migrating to cities and 


The Society and Its Environment 

other Arab countries in search of short- and long-term employment. 
Remittances from adult males working away from home and a rise 
in rural wages (stimulated by labor shortages in agriculture) com- 
bined to outpace inflation and helped to alleviate poverty among 
the landless peasants — the poorest villagers — in the 1980s. 

In 1990 approximately 50 percent of Egypt's population lived 
in villages. In the past, urban residents had little or no contact with 
the villagers who produced their food. Most peasants were sus- 
picious of urban landlords and government officials whose pres- 
ence in the villages coincided with the collection of rent and taxes. 
But in the twentieth century, extensive rural-urban contacts de- 
veloped as a result of large-scale migration to the cities, the estab- 
lishment of government services in villages, and the mass media. 
Nevertheless, a sharp distinction between rural and urban areas 
persisted. Wide disparities existed between cities and villages in 
amenities, services, and educational and health facilities. Mortali- 
ty rates, especially for infants, and illiteracy rates were notably 
higher in rural areas (see Population; and Health and Welfare, 
this ch.). 

In the 1980s, temporary migration in search of wage labor was 
particularly common among villagers in Upper Egypt; men left 
their families in the care of relatives during the slack agricultural 
seasons. In some Nubian villages, for example, all males between 
the ages of eighteen and forty-five were gone for much of the year. 
Migrants served as intermediaries between rural and urban Egypt 
and as agents of social change in the village. Because of the in- 
creasingly important role of nonagricultural work in the Delta, many 
villagers found new occupations that resulted in social cleavages. 
For example, the opportunity to earn a living independent of their 
fathers permitted men to exercise more freedom from traditional 
authority figures. Higher education provided upward mobility for 
substantial numbers of rural children and led to new social dis- 
tinctions within villages. 

The basic unit of village organization was the patrilineal lin- 
eage or clan. Composed of various families descended from a com- 
mon male ancestor four to six generations in the past, a lineage 
inhabited a specific quarter of the village. Lineages, controlled by 
elder males, were an integral force in village life and politics. Fam- 
ilies gained their identity not as autonomous entities but as part 
of their larger lineage. 

Lineages had a corporate identity with a recognized leadership 
pattern. A man's closest social contacts were with his brothers and 


Egypt: A Country Study 

cousins. A guest house was used to entertain visitors at the lineage's 
expense. Various lineages vied for power and influence within 
the village. The interests of the lineage were frequently more im- 
portant than the interests of individuals. Propinquity was crucial 
in settling disputes within a lineage. In conflicts with outsiders, 
individuals were expected to unite in the interests of their lineage. 
Propinquity was so important in rural society that to suggest a per- 
son had no kin was a profound insult. 

Lineages and a general disapproval of the public display of wealth 
blunted many of the economic disparities within and among vil- 
lage clans. Still, religious feasts and rites of passage provided an 
opportunity for lineages to display their wealth. Lineages usually 
invited other lineages to extravagant weddings and other celebra- 
tions. Several religious festivals required wealthy people to distrib- 
ute meat to the less fortunate. Return from the hajj (pilgrimage to 
Mecca) called for elaborate decorations in the pilgrim's house. In 
general, the socially acceptable means of displaying wealth helped 
integrate prosperous individuals into the community rather than 
separate them from it. 

A number of changes in the 1980s limited the influence of lin- 
eages. In the past, lineage elders maintained their authority by con- 
trolling land. But the recent increase in pressure on land has meant 
that fewer young men would inherit large plots. Many of these 
young men, realizing they would never own a substantial piece of 
land, have migrated to cities and other countries and are no longer 
influenced by their elders. The prevalence of nuclear families in 
cities has also eroded lineage ties. 

Family and Kinship 
Importance of Kinship 

The family remained the most significant unit of Egyptian soci- 
ety in 1990, and kinship played an important role in virtually all 
social relations. An individual's social identity was closely linked 
to his or her status in the network of kin relations. Socialization 
of children emphasized integration among their kin group. An im- 
portant goal of marriage was to ensure the continuity of a family. 
A husband and wife were not considered a family until they pro- 
duced their first child. After the child's birth, the parents were 
addressed as father and mother of Muhammad or Amal or whatever 
was the name of their child. The most deeply held values — honor, 
dignity, and security — were derived by an individual only as part 
of a larger kin group. Kinship as a first principle was evident from 
the most essential to the most trivial aspects of social organization. 


Feluccas at bend in the Nile near Bani Hasan; Muslim tombs in foreground 

Courtesy Boris Boguslavsky 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Egyptians reckoned descent patrilineally, and the ideal family 
was an extended family consisting of a man, his wife (or wives), 
his single and married sons and their wives and children, as well 
as his unmarried daughters. Younger members of the family 
deferred to older members, and women deferred to men. The po- 
litical and economic upheavals of the nineteenth and twentieth cen- 
turies had only limited impact on this family structure. The 
traditional Sunni religious code for Muslims (see Islam, this ch.) 
defined most Muslims' family matters (marriage, guardianship, 
and inheritance) while canon law defined these matters among 
Christians. The father controlled families' possessions and income. 
Even though adult male heads of household wielded immense 
authority within the family, traditional expectations of parental 
responsibilities prevented most fathers from exercising the full ex- 
tent of their powers. 

Although an extended family that lived together was considered 
the ideal, it was not common. A nuclear family consisting of par- 
ents and their unmarried children was the norm in cities. Even 
in rural areas, nuclear families accounted for approximately 80 to 
90 percent of all households. Nevertheless, relations with in-laws, 
grandparents, nieces, and nephews continued to have an impact 
on the lives of most adults. Newly married couples typically set 
up their households near the homes of the groom's parents and 
married brothers. Tensions between wives and their mothers-in- 
law, as well as tensions among wives of brothers, often disrupted 
the extended family's harmony. 

Both patrilineal descent and the patrilocal extended family func- 
tioned differently for men and women. Men were the preferred, 
valued members of the lineage. A son's birth was occasion to 
celebrate, whereas the birth of a daughter, especially if she were 
the first child, was generally greeted with ambivalence. Men were 
valued both as providers and as progenitors because descent was 
reckoned through males. Men remained with their consanguine- 
ous kin throughout their lives. Lineages commonly kept property 
in the hands of their males through marriages among cousins. If 
daughters married within their paternal lineage, then the property 
they might inherit and transfer to their children would remain 
within the lineage. For a beduin male or a villager, the ideal bride 
was the daughter of his father's brother. More than 50 percent of 
the marriages in rural areas and among the urban lower class were 
endogamous. Marriage between relatives has been declining among 
the urban middle and upper classes since the 1952 Revolution, and 
by the 1980s, most marriages in these social groups were ex- 


The Society and Its Environment 

For most men, marriage marked the transition to adulthood. 
Married men were expected to defer to their fathers, but they still 
had considerable autonomy because of their responsibility for their 
families' livelihoods and households. For most women, marriage 
meant leaving their families' homes and sometimes their home 
areas. In most cases, marriage merely substituted a woman's de- 
pendence on her husband for dependence on her father. 

A woman retained membership in her patrilineage regardless 
of her marital status. Indeed, if members of her lineage were feuding 
with members of her husband's lineage, the wife was expected to 
side with her paternal family. A woman was entitled to make de- 
mands of her father and brothers, especially in case of marital 
difficulties, throughout her life. Most women generally preferred 
to live near home and thus tried to avoid marriages with men whose 
families lived in other cities or villages. Geographical proximity 
to patrilineal kin served as a source of emotional support in the 
early years of marriage when women were most vulnerable to 
divorce. Women in villages often asked their brothers to hold their 
inheritances for them. This move helped prevent mistreatment of the 
women by their in-laws. A divorced woman could have her brother 
return the inheritance to her as her children approached adulthood. 

Attitudes Toward Women 

Rural and lower-class Egyptians generally believed that women 
were morally inferior to men. Women were expected to defer to 
senior male relatives, to avoid contact with men who were not kin, 
and to veil themselves in public. As children women learned to 
accept dependency on their fathers and older brothers. After mar- 
riage women expected their husbands to make all decisions. Early 
married life could be a time of extreme subordination and insecu- 
rity. The new wife usually lived with or near her husband's family 
and was expected to help her mother-in-law with household chores. 
A young wife was under considerable pressure from her husband 
and his family until she bore a son. Barrenness was a woman's 
worst possible misfortune, and not giving birth to a son was almost 
as bad. Women who had only daughters were derogatorily called 
"mothers of brides." Most families continued having children until 
they had at least two sons. As the length of a woman's marriage 
increased, and her sons matured, her position in the family grew 
more secure. A woman was at the peak of her power when her 
sons were married because she could then exercise influence over 
her sons' children and wives. 

Patrilineal families valued honor (ird). The sexual behavior and 
reputation of the women of a lineage were the most important 


Egypt: A Country Study 

components of a family's honor. A bad reputation for one woman 
meant a bad reputation for the whole lineage. Honor was essen- 
tial to social life; without it even a minimal social standing in the 
community was impossible. Men were especially interested in main- 
taining honor. Women were always on their best behavior around 
men from other families because they were afraid of getting a bad 
reputation. A bad reputation could disgrace the men of her family. 
A disgraced husband could restore his status, however, through 
divorce. Most disgraced fathers and brothers in rural and lower- 
class urban families, however, believed that honor could only be 
restored by killing the daughter or sister suspected of sexual mis- 
conduct. Family members who murdered the women were prepared 
to accept legal penalties for their actions. 

Women have traditionally been preoccupied with household tasks 
and child rearing and have rarely had opportunities for contact with 
men outside the family. But since the 1952 Revolution, social 
changes, especially in education, have caused many women to spend 
time in public places among men who were not related to them. 
To limit women's contact with these men, practices such as veil- 
ing and gender segregation at schools, work, and recreation have 
become commonplace. Furthermore, lower-class families, especially 
in Upper Egypt, have tended to withdraw girls from school as they 
reached puberty to minimize their interaction with men. Lower- 
class men frequently preferred marriage to women who had been 
secluded rather than to those who had worked or attended secon- 
dary school. 

Egypt's laws pertaining to marriage and divorce favored the social 
position of men. Muslim husbands were traditionally allowed to 
have up to four wives at a time in accordance with Islamic reli- 
gious custom, but a woman could have only one husband at a time. 
A Muslim man could divorce his wife with ease by saying "I divorce 
thee" on three separate occasions in the presence of witnesses. A 
woman wishing to dissolve a marriage had to instigate legal proceed- 
ings and prove to a court that her husband had failed to support 
her or that his behavior was having a harmful moral effect on the 
family. The laws required men to support their ex- wives for only 
one year after a divorce, and the fathers gained custody of the chil- 
dren. A man faced few or no penalties if he refused to provide equal 
support to his wives or if he refused to pay alimony to his divorced 
wife. Divorce was much more difficult for Copts than it was for 
Muslims. Canon law regulated the marriages and divorces of Copts. 

After decades of debate, the government amended the laws relat- 
ing to personal status in 1979. The amendments, which became 


The Society and Its Environment 

known as the "women's rights law," were in the form of a presiden- 
tial decree and subsequently approved by the People's Assembly. 
The leading orthodox Islamic clergy endorsed these amendments, 
but Islamist groups opposed them as state infringements of reli- 
gious precepts and campaigned for their repeal. The amendments 
stated that polygyny was legally harmful to a first wife and enti- 
tled her to sue for divorce within a year after learning of her hus- 
band' s second marriage. The amendments also entitled the first 
wife to compensation. A husband retained the right to divorce his 
wife without recourse to the courts, but he was required to file for 
his divorce before witnesses at a registrar's office and officially and 
immediately to inform his wife. The divorced wife was entitled to 
alimony equivalent to one year's maintenance in addition to com- 
pensation equivalent to two years' maintenance; a court could in- 
crease these amounts under extenuating circumstances such as the 
dissolution of a long marriage. The divorced wife automatically 
retained custody of sons under the age of ten and daughters under 
twelve; courts could extend the mother's custody of minors until 
their eighteenth birthdays. 

In 1985 Egyptian authorities ruled that the amendments of 1979 
were unconstitutional because they had been enacted through a 
presidential decree while the People's Assembly was not in session. 
A new law reversed many of the rights accorded to women in 1979 
(see The Limits of Incorporation: The Rise of Political Islam and 
the Continuing Role of Repression, ch. 4). A woman lost her au- 
tomatic right to divorce her husband if he married a second wife. 
She could still petition a court to consider her case, but a judge 
would grant a divorce only if it were in the interests of the family. 
If a divorce were granted, the judge would also determine what 
was an appropriate residence for the divorced woman and her 

The changes in divorce legislation in 1979 and 1985 did not sig- 
nificantiy alter the divorce rate, which has" been relatively high since 
the early 1950s. About one in five marriages ended in divorce in 
the 1980s. Remarriage was common, and most divorced men and 
women expected to wed again. Seven out of ten divorces took place 
within the first five years of marriage, and one out of three in the 
first year. The divorce rate depended on residence and level of edu- 
cation. The highest divorce rates were among the urban lower class, 
the lowest rates among the villagers of Upper Egypt. Throughout 
the country, as much as 95 percent of all divorces occurred among 
couples who were illiterate. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Changing Status of Women 

Since the early 1970s, women's status has been changing, mostly 
because an increasing number of women have joined the nonagricul- 
tural workforce. According to government estimates, the number 
of working women doubled from 500,000 to 1 million between 1978 
and 1980. By 1982 women accounted for 14 percent of all wage- 
earning and salaried employees throughout the country. Although 
substantial numbers of women were in the professions, particu- 
larly education, engineering, and medicine, most women held low- 
paying jobs in factories, offices, and service industries. Half of all 
employed women held jobs such as street cleaners, janitors, hotel 
and domestic servants, and hospital aides. In 1990 women account- 
ed for more than 12 percent of all industrial workers; most female 
factory workers were in textiles, food processing, and pharmaceu- 


Religion has traditionally been a pervasive social force in Egypt. 
For more than 1,000 years, the country has been mosdy Islamic. 
Still, there is an indigenous Christian minority, the Copts, which 
accounted for as much as 8.5 percent of the total population. Other 
Christians living in the country included approximately 750,000 
adherents of various Latin and Eastern Catholic rites, Greek and 
Armenian Orthodox churches, and Protestant denominations; 
many of these Christians emigrated after the 1956 War. An esti- 
mated 1,000 Jews lived in Egypt as of 1990. These Jews were a 
fragment of a community of 80,000 who lived in the country before 
1948. Egypt's Constitution of 1971 guarantees freedom of religion 
(see Islam, this ch.). 

Religious fervor increased among all social classes after Egypt's 
defeat in the June 1967 War. Pious individuals commonly blamed 
Egypt's lack of faith for the country's setbacks. The resurgence 
in public worship and displays of devotion persisted in the late 
1980s. A relaxation of press censorship in 1974 stimulated the 
growth of religious publications. Religiously inspired political ac- 
tivism and participation in Sufi orders intensified among the ur- 
ban, educated, formerly secular-minded segments of the populace. 


In 610 Muhammad (later known as the Prophet), a merchant 
member of the Hashimite branch of the Quraysh clan that ruled 
the Arabian town of Mecca, began to preach the first of a series 
of revelations that Muslims believe were given him by God through 


The Society and Its Environment 

the angel Gabriel. A fervent monotheist, Muhammad denounced 
the polytheism of his fellow Meccans. His vigorous and continu- 
ing censure earned him the bitter enmity of Mecca's leaders, who 
feared the impact of Muhammad's ideas on Mecca's thriving busi- 
ness based on pilgrimages to numerous pagan religious sites. 

In 622 Muhammad and a group of followers left for the town 
of Yathrib, which became known as Medina (the city). Their move, 
or hijra (Hegira), marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar, which 
is based on the lunar year and is several days shorter than the solar 
year. Muhammad continued to preach in Medina, defeated his 
detractors in Mecca in battie, and consolidated both temporal and 
spiritual leadership of all Arabia by 632, the year of his death. 

Muhammad's followers compiled the Quran (also seen as Koran), 
a book containing the words that had come direcdy to the prophet 
from God. The Quran serves as the holy scriptures of Islam. Mu- 
hammad's sayings and teachings were compiled separately and 
referred to as the hadith. The Quran and the hadith form the sunna, 
a comprehensive guide to the spiritual, ethical, and social life of 
the orthodox Sunni Muslim. 

The shahada (profession of faith) succincdy states the central be- 
lief of Islam: "There is no god but God (Allah), and Muhammad 
is His Prophet." Muslims repeat this profession of faith during 
many rituals. Reciting the phrase with unquestioning sincerity 
designates one a Muslim. The God about whom Muhammad 
preached was known to Christians and Jews living in Arabia at 
the time. Most Arabs, however, worshipped many gods and spirits 
whose existence was denied by Muhammad. Muhammad urged 
the people to worship the monotheistic God as the omnipotent and 
unique creator. Muhammad explained that his God was om- 
nipresent and invisible. Therefore, representing God through sym- 
bols would have been a sin. Muhammad said God determined world 
events, and resisting God would have been futile and sinful. 

Islam means submission (to God). One who submits is a Mus- 
lim. Muslims believe that Muhammad is the "seal of the prophets" 
and that his revelations complete the series of biblical revelations 
received by Jews and Christians. They also believe that God is one 
and the same throughout time, but his true teachings had been 
forgotten until Muhammad arrived. Muslims recognized biblical 
prophets and sages such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus (known 
in Arabic as Ibrahim, Musa, and Isa, respectively) as inspired ve- 
hicles of God's will. Islam, however, reveres only their messages 
as sacred. Islam rejects the Christian belief that Jesus is the son 
of God. Islam accepts the concepts of guardian angels, the Day 


Egypt: A Country Study 

of Judgment (or the last day), general resurrection, heaven and 
hell, and eternal life of the soul. 

The duties of the Muslim form the five pillars of the faith. These 
are the recitation of the shahada; daily prayer (salat); almsgiving 
(zakat); fasting (sawm); and hajj, or pilgrimage. The believer prays 
in a prescribed manner after purification through ritual ablutions 
each day at dawn, midday, midafternoon, sunset, and nightfall. Pre- 
scribed genuflections and prostrations accompany the prayers, 
which the worshipper recites facing Mecca. Whenever possible men 
pray in congregation at the mosque with an imam (see Glossary), 
or prayer leader. On Fridays corporate prayer is obligatory. The 
Friday noon prayers provide the occasion for weekly sermons by 
religious leaders. Women may also attend public worship at the 
mosque, but they are segregated from the men. Most women who 
pray, however, do it at home. A special functionary, the muezzin, 
intones a call to prayer to the entire community at the appropriate 
hour; people in outlying areas determine the proper time from the 
sun. Public prayer is a conspicuous and widely practiced aspect 
of Islam in Egypt. 

Early Islamic authorities imposed a tax on personal property 
proportionate to one's wealth and distributed the revenues to the 
mosques and to the needy. In addition, many believers made volun- 
tary donations. Although almsgiving is still a duty of the believer, 
it is no longer enforced by the state and has become a more pri- 
vate matter. Many properties contributed by pious individuals to 
support religious and charitable activities or institutions were tradi- 
tionally administered as inalienable waqfs. 

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, is a period 
of obligatory fasting in commemoration of Muhammad's receipt 
of God's revelation, the Quran. Throughout the month, everyone 
except the sick, the weak, pregnant or nursing women, soldiers 
on duty, travelers on necessary journeys, and young children are 
enjoined from eating and drinking during daylight hours. Adults 
excused from the fasting are obliged to observe an equivalent fast 
at their earliest opportunity. A meal breaks each daily fast and in- 
augurates a night of feasting and celebration. Wealthy individuals 
usually do little work for all or part of the day. 

Because the months of the lunar calendar are shorter than the 
months of the solar year, Ramadan falls at different times each 
year. For example, when Ramadan occurs in summer, it imposes 
special hardship on farmers who do heavy physical labor in the 
fields in the daytime. 

At least once in their lifetimes, all Muslims who are financially 
and physically capable are expected to make a pilgrimage to the 


The Society and Its Environment 

holy city of Mecca to participate in special rites held there during 
the twelfth month of the lunar calendar. Muhammad instituted 
this requirement, modifying pre-Islamic custom, to emphasize sites 
associated with Allah and Abraham, whom Arabs believe founded 
monotheism and is the ancestor of Arabs through his son Ishmael 
(Ismail). More than 20,000 Egyptians made pilgrimages to Mecca 
each year in the late 1980s. Traditionally the departure of Egypt's 
pilgrims climaxed in the ceremony of mahmal, during which the 
national gift of carpets and shrouds for the Kaaba shrine and the 
tomb of Muhammad at Medina were presented. The pilgrims would 
later deliver the gifts. 

Once in Mecca, pilgrims, dressed in the white, seamless ihram, 
refrain from activities considered unclean. Highlights of the pil- 
grimage include kissing the sacred black stone; circumambulating 
the Kaaba, the sacred structure reputedly built by Abraham that 
houses the stone; running seven times between the hills of As Safa 
and Al Marwa in reenactment of Hagar's desperate search for water 
after Abraham had cast her and her son Ismail out into the desert; 
and standing in prayer on Mount Arafat. Id al Adha, a major Is- 
lamic festival celebrated worldwide, marks the end of the hajj. Each 
family, if it has the financial means, slaughters a lamb on Id al 
Adha to commemorate an ancient Arab sacrificial custom. The 
returning pilgrim is accorded the honorific hajj or hajji before his 
or her name. 

Early Developments 

During his lifetime, Muhammad was the spiritual and temporal 
leader of the Muslim community. He established the concept of 
Islam as a complete, all-encompassing way of life for individuals 
and society. Islam teaches that Allah revealed to Muhammad the 
immutable principles of correct behavior. Islam therefore obliged 
Muslims to live according to these principles. It also obliged the 
community to perfect human society on earth according to holy 
injunctions. Islam generally made no distinction between religion 
and state; it merged religious and secular life, as well as religious 
and secular law. Muslims have traditionally been subject to the 
sharia (Islamic jurisprudence, but in a larger sense meaning the 
Islamic way). A comprehensive legal system, the sharia developed 
gradually during the first four centuries of Islam, primarily through 
the accretion of precedent and interpretation by various judges and 
scholars. During the tenth century, legal opinion hardened into 
authoritative doctrine, and the figurative bob al ijtihad (gate of inter- 
pretation) gradually closed. Thereafter, Islamic law has tended to fol- 
low precedent rather than to interpret law according to circumstances. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

In 632, after Muhammad's death the leaders of the Muslim com- 
munity consensually chose Abu Bakr, the Prophet's father-in-law 
and one of his earliest followers, to succeed him. At that time, some 
people favored Ali, the Prophet's cousin and husband of his favorite 
daughter Fatima, but Ali and his supporters (the Shiat Ali, or party 
of Ali, commonly known as Shia) eventually accepted the commu- 
nity's choice. The next two caliphs (from khalifa, literally succes- 
sor) — Umar, who succeeded in 634, and Uthman, who took power 
in 644 — enjoyed the recognition of the entire community. When 
Ali finally succeeded to the caliphate in 656, Muawiyah, governor 
of Syria, rebelled in the name of his murdered kinsman, Uthman. 
After the ensuing civil war, Ali moved his capital to Mesopotamia 
(present-day Iraq), where in a short time he, too, was murdered. 

Ali was the last of the so-called four orthodox caliphs. His death 
marked the end of the period in which all Muslims recognized a 
single caliph. Muawiyah then proclaimed himself caliph from 
Damascus. The Shia, however, refusing to recognize Muawiyah 
or his line of Umayyad caliphs, withdrew, causing Islam's first great 
schism. The Shia supported the claims of Ali's sons and grand- 
sons to a presumptive right to the caliphate based on descent from 
the Prophet through Fatima and Ali. The larger faction of Islam, 
the Sunni, claimed to follow the orthodox teaching and example 
of the Prophet as embodied in the sunna. 

Early Islam was intensely expansionist. Fervor for the new 
religion, as well as economic and social factors, fueled this expan- 
sionism. Conquering armies and migrating tribes swept out of Ara- 
bia and spread Islam. By the end of Islam's first century, Islamic 
armies had reached far into North Africa and eastward and north- 
ward into Asia. Among the first countries to come under their con- 
trol was Egypt, which Arab forces invaded in 640. The following 
year, Amr ibn al As conquered Cairo (then known as Babylon) 
and renamed the city Al Fustat. By 647, after the surrender of Alex- 
andria, the whole country was under Muslim rule (see The Arab 
Conquest, 639-41, ch. 1). Amr, Egypt's first Muslim ruler, was 
influenced by the Prophet's advice that Muslims should be kind 
to the Egyptians because of their kinship ties to Arabs. According 
to Islamic tradition, Ismail's mother, Hagar, was of Egyptian 

Amr allowed the Copts to choose between converting to Islam 
or retaining their beliefs as a protected people. Amr gave them this 
choice because the Prophet had recognized the special status of the 
"People of the Book" (Jews and Christians), whose scriptures he 
considered perversions of God's true word but nevertheless con- 
tributory to Islam. Amr believed that Jews and Christians were 


The Society and Its Environment 

people who had approached but not yet achieved the perfection 
of Islam, so he did not treat them like pagans who would be forced 
into choosing between Islam and death. Jews and Christians in 
Muslim territories could live according to their own religious laws 
and in their own communities if they accepted the position of dhim- 
mis, or tolerated subject peoples. Dhimmis were required to recog- 
nize Muslim authority, pay additional taxes, avoid proselytism 
among Muslims, and give up certain political rights. By the ninth 
century A.D., most Egyptians had converted to Islam. 

Amr had chosen Al Fustat as the capital of Islamic Egypt be- 
cause a canal connected the city to the Red Sea, which provided 
easy access to the Muslim heartland in the Arabian Peninsula. He 
initiated construction of Cairo's oldest extant mosque, the Amr 
ibn al As Mosque, which was completed in 71 1 , several years after 
his death. Successive rulers also built mosques and other religious 
buildings as monuments to their faith and accomplishments. Egypt's 
first Turkish ruler, Ahmad ibn Tulun, built one of Cairo's most 
renowned mosques, the Ibn Tulun Mosque, in 876. 

A Shia dynasty, the Fatimids, conquered Egypt in 969 and ruled 
the country for 200 years (see The Tulinids, Ikhshidids, Fatimids, 
and Ayyubids, 868-1260, ch. 1). Although the Fatimids endowed 
numerous mosques, shrines, and theological schools, they did not 
firmly establish their faith (known today as Ismaili Shia Islam — 
see Glossary) in Egypt. Numerous sectarian conflicts among Fatimid 
Ismailis after 1050 may have been a factor in Egyptian Muslim 
acceptance of Saladin's (Salah ad Din ibn Ayyub) reestablishment 
of Sunni Islam as the state religion in 1171. Al Azhar theological 
school, endowed by the Fatimids, changed quickly from a center 
of Shia learning to a bastion of Sunni orthodoxy. There were vir- 
tually no Ismailis in Egypt in 1990, although large numbers lived 
in India and Pakistan and smaller communities were in Afghanistan, 
Iran, Syria, and several countries in East Africa. 

Contemporary Islam 

Prior to Napoleon's invasion, almost all of Egypt's educational, 
legal, public health, and social welfare issues were in the hands of 
religious functionaries. Ottoman rule reinforced the public and po- 
litical roles of the ulama (religious scholars) because Islam was the 
state religion and because political divisions in the country were 
based on religious divisions. During the nineteenth and twenti- 
eth centuries, successive governments made extensive efforts to 
limit the role of the ulama in public life and to bring religious 
institutions under closer state control. The secular transformation 
of public life in Egypt depended on the development of a civil 


Egypt: A Country Study 

bureaucracy that would absorb many of the ulama's responsibili- 
ties in the country. 

After the 1952 Revolution, the government assumed responsi- 
bility for appointing officials to mosques and religious schools. The 
government mandated reform of Al Azhar University beginning 
in 1961. These reforms permitted department heads to be drawn 
from outside the ranks of the traditionally trained orthodox ula- 
ma. At the same time, the government established a number of 
modern faculties, including medicine, engineering, and commerce. 
The media periodically campaigned against the ulama as old- 
fashioned members of a "priestly caste." 

As of 1990, Egyptian Islam was a complex and diverse religion. 
Although Muslims agreed on the faith's basic tenets, the country's 
various social groups and classes applied Islam differently in their 
daily lives. The literate theologians of Al Azhar University gener- 
ally rejected the version of Islam practiced by illiterate religious 
preachers and peasants in the countryside. Most upper- and middle- 
class Muslims believed either that religious expression was a pri- 
vate matter for each individual or that Islam should play a more 
dominant role in public life. Islamic religious revival movements, 
whose appeal cut across class lines, were present in most cities and 
in many villages. 

Today devout Muslims believe that Islam defines one's relation- 
ship to God, to other Muslims, and to non-Muslims. They also 
believe that there can be no dichotomy between the sacred and the 
secular. Many devout Muslims say that Egypt's governments have 
been secularist and even antireligious since the early 1920s. Polit- 
ically organized Muslims who seek to purge the country of its secular 
policies are referred to as "Islamists." Orthodox ulama found them- 
selves in a difficult position during the wave of Islamic activism 
that swept through Egypt in the 1970s and 1980s. Radical Islamists 
viewed the ulama as puppets of the status quo. To maintain their 
influence in the country, the ulama espoused more conservative 
stances. After 1974, for example, many Al Azhar ulama, who had 
acquiesced to family planning initiatives in the 1960s, openly criti- 
cized government efforts at population control. The ulama also sup- 
ported moves to reform the country's legal code to conform to 
Islamic teaching. They remained, nonetheless, comparatively mod- 
erate; they were largely loyal to the government and condemned 
the violence of radical Islamist groups. 

Egypt's largely uneducated urban and rural lower classes were 
intensely devoted to Islam, but they lacked a thorough knowledge 
of the religion. Even village religious leaders had only a rudimen- 
tary knowledge of Islam. The typical village imam or prayer leader 


The Society and Its Environment 

had at most a few years of schooling; his scholarly work was lim- 
ited to reading prayers and sermons prepared by others and 
to learning passages from the Quran. Popular religion included 
a variety of unorthodox practices, such as veneration of saints, 
recourse to charms and amulets, and belief in the influence of evil 

Popular Islam is based mostiy on oral tradition. Imams with vir- 
tually no formal education commonly memorize the entire Quran 
and recite appropriate verses on religious occasions. They also tell 
religious stories at village festivals and commemorations marking 
an individual's rites of passage. Predestination plays an important 
role in popular Islam. This concept includes the belief that every- 
thing that happens in life is the will of God and the belief that try- 
ing to avoid misfortune is useless and invites worse affliction. 
Monotheism merges with a belief in magic and spirits (jinns) who 
are believed to inhabit the mountains. 

Popular Islam ranges from informal prayer sessions or Quran 
study to organized cults or orders. Because of the pervasive sexual 
segregation of Egypt's Islamic society, men and women often prac- 
tice their religion in different ways. A specifically female religious 
custom is the zar, a ceremony for helping women placate spirits 
who are believed to have possessed them. Women specially trained 
by their mothers or other women in zar lore organize the ceremo- 
nies. A zar organizer holds weekly meetings and employs music 
and dance to induce ecstatic trances in possessed women. Wealthy 
women sometimes pay to have private zars conducted in their homes; 
these zars are more elaborate than public ones, last for several days, 
and sometimes involve efforts to exorcise spirits. 

A primarily male spiritual manifestation is Sufism, an Islamic 
mystical tradition. Sufism has existed since the early days of Islam 
and is found in all Islamic countries. The name derives from the 
Arabic word suf (wool), referring to the rough garb of the early 
mystics. Sufism exists in a number of forms, most of which represent 
an original tariqa (discipline or way; pi. , turuq) developed by an in- 
spired founder, or shaykh. These shaykhs gradually gathered about 
themselves murids, or disciples, whom they initiated into the tariqa. 
Gradually the murids formed orders, also known as turuq, which 
were loyal to the shaykh or his successors. The devotions of many 
Sufi orders center on various forms of the dhikr, a ceremony at which 
music, body movements, and chants induce a state of ecstatic trance 
in the disciples. Since the early 1970s, there has been a revival of 
interest in Sufism. Egypt's contemporary Sufis tend to be young, 
college-educated men in professional careers. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Islamic Political Movements 

Islamic political activism has a lengthy history in Egypt. Several 
Islamic political groups started soon after World War I ended. The 
most well-known Islamic political organization is the Muslim 
Brotherhood (Al Ikhwan al Muslimun, also known as the Brother- 
hood), founded in 1928 by Hasan al Banna. After World War II, 
the Muslim Brotherhood acquired a reputation as a radical group 
prepared to use violence to achieve its religious goals. The group 
was implicated in several assassinations, including the murder of 
one prime minister. The Brotherhood had contacts with the Free 
Officers before the 1952 Revolution and supported most of their 
initial policies. The Brotherhood, however, soon came into con- 
flict with Nasser. The government accused the Brotherhood of com- 
plicity in an alleged 1954 plot to assassinate the president and 
imprisoned many of the group's leaders. In the 1970s, Anwar as 
Sadat amnestied the leaders and permitted them to resume some 
of their activities. But by that time, the Brotherhood was divided 
into at least three factions. The more militant faction was com- 
mitted to a policy of political opposition to the government. A second 
faction advocated peaceful withdrawal from society and the crea- 
tion, to the extent possible, of a separate, parallel society based 
upon Islamic values and law. The dominant moderate group advo- 
cated cooperation with the regime (see Controlling the Mass Po- 
litical Arena, ch. 4; and Muslim Extremism, ch. 5). 

The Muslim Brotherhood's reemergence as a political force coin- 
cided with the proliferation of Islamic groups. Some of these groups 
espoused the violent overthrow of the government while others 
espoused living a devout life of rigorous observance of religious 
practices. It is impossible to list all the Islamic groups that emerged 
in the late 1970s because many of them had diffuse structures and 
some of the more militant groups were underground. Egypt's de- 
feat and loss of territory in the June 1967 War was the main cause 
for the growth of religiously inspired political activism. Muslims 
tended to view the humiliating experience as the culmination of 
150 years of foreign intrusion and an affront to their vision of 
a true Islamic community. Islamic tradition rejected the idea of 
non-Muslims dominating Muslim society. Such a state of affairs 
discredited Muslim rulers who permitted it to persist. It was, there- 
fore, incumbent on believers to end the domination and restore 
the true supremacy of Islam. As part of their Sunni creed, the most 
radical activists adopted jihad (holy war — the Shia sixth pillar of 
faith) and committed themselves to battling unbelievers and im- 
pious Muslims. During the 1970s and 1980s, Islamists perpetrated 


The Society and Its Environment 

a number of violent acts, including the assassination of Sadat in 
October 1981. 

Disruptive social changes and Sadat's relative tolerance toward 
political parties contributed to the rapid growth of Islamic groups 
in the 1970s. On university campuses, for example, Sadat initially 
viewed the rise of Islamic associations (Jamaat al Islamiyah) as a 
counterbalance to leftist influence among students. The Jamaat al 
Islamiyah spread quite rapidly on campuses and won up to one- 
third of all student union elections. These victories provided a plat- 
form from which the associations campaigned for Islamic dress, 
the veiling of women, and the segregation of classes by gender. 
Secular university administrators opposed these goals. In 1979 Sadat 
sought to diminish the influence of the associations through a law 
that transferred most of the authority of the student unions to profes- 
sors and administrators. During the 1980s, however, Islamists grad- 
ually penetrated college faculties. At Asyut University, which was 
the scene of some of the most intense clashes between Islamists and 
their opponents (including security forces, secularists, and Copts), 
the president and other top administrators — who were Islamists- 
supported Jamaat al Islamiyah demands to end mixed-sex classes 
and to reduce total female enrollment. 

As of 1990, the Islamists sought to make Egypt a community 
of the faithful based on their vision of an Islamic social order. They 
rejected conventional, secularist social analyses of Egypt's socioeco- 
nomic problems. They maintained, for example, that the causes 
of poverty were not overpopulation or high defense expenditures 
but the populace's spiritual failures — laxness, secularism, and cor- 
ruption. The solution was a return to the simplicity, hard work, 
and self-reliance of earlier Muslim life. The Islamists created their 
own alternative network of social and economic institutions through 
which members could work, study, and receive medical treatment 
in an Islamic environment. 

Islamists rejected Marxism and Western capitalism. Indeed, they 
viewed atheistic communism, Jewish Zionism, and Western 
"Crusader-minded" Christianity as their main enemies, which were 
responsible for the decadence that led to foreign domination and 
defeat by Zionists. They were intolerant of people who did not share 
their world view. Islamists tended to be hostile toward the ortho- 
dox ulama, especially the scholars at Al Azhar who frequently criti- 
cized the Islamists' extreme religious interpretations. Islamists 
believed that the established social and political order had tainted 
the ulama, who had come to represent stumbling blocks to the new 
Islamic order. In addition, Islamists condemned the orthodox as 


Egypt: A Country Study 

"pulpit parrots" committed to a formalist practice of Islam but 
not to its spirit. 

The social origins of Islamists changed after the 1952 Revolu- 
tion. In the 1940s and early 1950s, the Muslim Brotherhood had 
appealed primarily to urban civil servants and white-and blue-collar 
workers. After the early 1970s, the Islamic revival attracted fol- 
lowers from a broad spectrum of social classes. Most activists were 
university students or recent graduates; they included rural-urban 
migrants and urban middle-class youth whose fathers were middle- 
level government employees or professionals. Their fields of 
study — medicine, engineering, military science, and pharmacy — 
were among the most highly competitive and prestigious disciplines 
in the university system. The rank-and-file members of Islamist 
groups have come from the middle class, the lower-middle class, 
and the urban working class. 

Various Islamist groups espoused different means for achieving 
their political agenda. All Islamists, however, were concerned with 
Islam's role in the complex and changing society of Egypt in the 
late twentieth century. A common focus of their political efforts 
has been to incorporate the sharia into the country's legal code. 
In deference to their increasing influence, the Ministry of Justice 
in 1977 published a draft law making apostasy by a Muslim a cap- 
ital offense and proposing traditional Islamic punishments for 
crimes, such as stoning for adultery and amputation of a hand for 
theft. In 1980 Egypt supported a referendum that proposed a con- 
stitutional amendment to make the sharia "the sole source of law." 
The influence of the Islamists temporarily waned in the aftermath 
of Sadat's assassination in 1981, but the election of nine members 
of the Muslim Brotherhood to the People's Assembly in 1984 re- 
vived Islamists' prospects. In 1985 the People's Assembly voted 
to initiate a procedure for the gradual application of the sharia, 
beginning with an indefinite education period to prepare the popu- 
lation for the legal changes; the next step would be to amend all 
existing laws to exclude any provisions that conflict with the shar- 
ia. Moves to reform the legal code received support from many 
Muslims who wanted to purify society and reject Western legal 
codes forced on Egypt in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. 

Coptic Church 

The Copts have remained a significant minority throughout the 
medieval and modern periods. After the Turks incorporated Egypt 
into the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century, they organized 
the government around a system of millets, or religious commu- 
nities. The Copts were one of the communities. Each organized 


The Society and Its Environment 

religious minority lived according to its own canon law under the 
leadership of recognized religious authorities who represented the 
millet to the outside world and supervised the millet's internal com- 
munal life. This form of organization preserved and nourished the 
religious differences among these peoples. Most historians believe 
that the millet system prevented the full integration of non-Muslims 
into Muslim life. The system, which the Ottomans applied through- 
out their empire, had an enduring influence on the social struc- 
ture of all countries in the Middle East. 

The Copts, an indigenous Christian sect, constituted Egypt's 
largest religious minority. Estimates of their numbers in 1990 
ranged between 3 million to 7 million. The Copts claimed descent 
from the ancient Egyptians; the word copt is derived from the Arabic 
word qubt (Egyptian). Egypt was Christianized during the first cen- 
tury A.D. , when the country was part of the Roman Empire. The 
Coptic Church claims to hold an unbroken line of patriarchal suc- 
cession to the See of Alexandria founded by Saint Mark, a disci- 
ple of Christ. Egyptian Christianity developed distinct dogmas and 
practices during the more than two centuries that the religion was 
illegal. By the fourth century, when Constantine made Christianity 
the official religion of the Roman Empire, Coptic traditions were 
sufficiently different from those in Rome and Constantinople (for- 
merly Byzantium; present-day Istanbul) to cause major religious 
conflicts. Dissension persisted for 150 years until most Copts seceded 
from the main body of Christianity because they rejected the deci- 
sion of the Council of Chalcedon that Christ had a dual nature, 
both human and divine, believing instead in Christ's single, di- 
vine nature. 

The Coptic Church developed separately from other Eastern 
churches. The Coptic Church's clerical hierarchy had evolved by 
the sixth century. A patriarch, referred to as the pope, heads the 
church. A synod or council of senior priests (people who have at- 
tained the status of bishops) is responsible for electing or remov- 
ing popes. Members of the Coptic Church worldwide (about 1 
million Copts lived outside of Egypt as of 1990) recognize the pope 
as their spiritual leader. The pope, traditionally based in Alexan- 
dria, also serves as the chief administrator of the church. The ad- 
ministrator's functionaries include hundreds of priests serving urban 
and rural parishes, friars in monasteries, and nuns in convents. 

Following Islam's spread through Egypt, Muslims alternately 
tolerated and persecuted the Copts. Heavy taxation of Christians 
encouraged mass conversions to Islam, and within two centuries, 
Copts had become a distinct minority. By the tenth century, Arabic 


Egypt: A Country Study 

had replaced Coptic as the primary spoken language, and Coptic 
was relegated to a liturgical language. 

The Ottoman millet system of drawing administrative divisions 
along religious lines reinforced Coptic solidarity. The dismantling 
of the millet system during the nineteenth century helped open new 
career opportunities for the Copts. Egypt's Muslim rulers had tradi- 
tionally used minority members as administrators, and the Copts 
were initially the main beneficiaries of the burgeoning civil ser- 
vice. During the early twentieth century, however, the British 
purged many Copts from the bureaucracy. The Copts resented this 
policy, but it accelerated their entry into professional careers. 

In the twentieth century, Copts have been disproportionately 
represented among the ranks of prosperous city dwellers. Urban 
Copts tended to favor careers in commerce and the professions, 
whereas the livelihoods of rural Copts were virtually indistinguish- 
able from their Muslim counterparts. Urban Copts were stratified 
into groups of long-time residents and groups of recent migrants 
from the countryside. The latter group was often impoverished and 
fell outside the traditional urban Coptic community. The former 
group included many university professors, lawyers, doctors, a few 
prominent public officials, and a substantial middle echelon of fac- 
tory workers and service sector employees. 

Anti-Coptic sentiment has accompanied the resurgence of Islamic 
activism in Egypt. Since 1972 several Coptic churches have been 
burned, including the historic Qasriyat ar Rihan Church in Cairo. 
Islamist groups frequently and explicitly denounced Copts in their 
pamphlets and prayer meetings. The increasing tensions between 
Copts and Muslims inevitably led to clashes in Upper Egypt in 
1977 and 1978 and later in the cities and villages of the Delta. Three 
days of religious riots in Cairo in 1981 left at least 17 Copts and 
Muslims dead and more than 100 injured. Isolated incidents of 
Muslim-Coptic violence continued throughout the 1980s and during 

Coptic Pope Shenudah III (elected in 1971) blamed government 
silence for the increasing violence. He also expressed alarm at official 
actions that he said encouraged anti-Coptic feelings. In 1977, to pro- 
test a Ministry of Justice proposal to apply sharia legal penalties 
to any Muslim who converted from Islam, the pope called on the 
Coptic community to fast for five days. As harassment of Copts 
increased, Pope Shenudah III canceled official Easter celebrations 
for 1980 and fled to a desert convent with his bishops. Sadat accused 
the pope of inciting the Coptic-Muslim strife and banished him in 
September 1981 to internal exile. The government then appointed 
a committee of five bishops to administer the church. The following 


The Society and Its Environment 

year, the government called upon the church synod to elect a new 
pope, but the Coptic clergy rejected this state intervention. In 1985 
Husni Mubarak released Pope Shenudah III from internal exile 
and permitted him to resume his religious duties. 

Other Religious Minorities 

Egypt's other religious minorities in 1990 included approximately 
350,000 adherents of the Greek Orthodox Church, 175,000 Eastern 
and Latin Rite Catholics, 200,000 Protestants, and fewer than 1,000 
Jews. The Greek Orthodox Church was headquartered in Alex- 
andria, where most of its members lived. Most members of the 
Greek Orthodox were of Greek origin, but followers also included 
Arabs, Armenians, and the affiliated Coptic Orthodox Church. 
The Catholics embraced seven distinct rites that Rome historical- 
ly authorized to use languages other than Latin as integral parts 
of their liturgies. Approximately 85 percent of all Catholics in Egypt 
belonged to the Coptic Catholic Church. Other Catholics includ- 
ed followers of the Armenian, Chaldean, Greek, Latin, Maronite, 
and Syrian rites. There were also numerous Protestant churches. 
The government suspended the Anglican Church in 1958 after the 
Anglo-French occupation of the Suez Canal but permitted it to re- 
sume functioning in 1974. The Anglican Church in Egypt was part 
of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East. Other 
Protestant churches included the Armenian Apostolic Church, the 
Union of Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East, and 
the Coptic Evangelical Church. 


Prior to the nineteenth century, the ulama and Coptic clergy 
controlled Egypt's traditional education. The country's most im- 
portant institutes were theological seminaries, but most mosques 
and churches — even in villages — operated basic schools where boys 
could learn to read and write Arabic, to do simple arithmetic, and 
to memorize passages from the Quran or Bible. Muhammad Ali 
established the system of modern secular education in the early 
nineteenth century to provide technically trained cadres for his civil 
administration and military. His grandson, Ismail, greatly expand- 
ed the system by creating a network of public schools at the primary, 
secondary, and higher levels. Ismail's wife set up the first school 
for girls in 1873. Between 1882 and 1922, when the country was 
under British administration, state education did not expand. How- 
ever, numerous private schools, including Egypt's first secular 
university, were established. After direct British rule ended, Egypt 
adopted a new constitution that proclaimed the state's responsibility 


Egypt: A Country Study 

to ensure adequate primary schools for all Egyptians. Neverthe- 
less, education generally remained accessible only to the elite. At 
the time of the 1952 Revolution, fewer than 50 percent of all 
primary- school- age children attended school, and the majority of 
the children who were enrolled were boys. Nearly 75 percent of 
the population over ten years of age was illiterate. More than 90 
percent of the females in this age group were illiterate. 

The Free Officers dramatically expanded educational opportu- 
nities. They pledged to provide free education for all citizens and 
abolished all fees for public schools. They doubled the Ministry 
of Education's budget in one decade; government spending on edu- 
cation grew from less than 3 percent of the gross domestic product 
(GDP— see Glossary) in 1952-53 to more than 5 percent by 1978. 
Expenditures on school construction increased 1 ,000 percent between 
1952 and 1976, and the total number of primary schools doubled 
to 10,000. By the mid-1970s, the educational budget represented 
more than 25 percent of the government's total current budget 
expenses. Since the mid-1970s, however, the government has vir- 
tually abandoned the country's earlier educational goals. Conse- 
quently, public investment in new educational infrastructure has 
declined in relation to total educational expenditures; about 85 per- 
cent of the Ministry of Education's budget has been designated 
for salaries. 

From academic year 1953-54 through 1965-66, overall enroll- 
ments more than doubled. They almost doubled again from 1965- 
66 through 1975-76. Since 1975 primary- school enrollments have 
continued to grow at an average of 4.1 percent annually, and in- 
termediate school (grades seven through nine) at an average of 6.9 
percent annually (for 1985-86 enrollments, see table 2, Appendix). 
The proportion of the population with some secondary education 
more than doubled between 1960 and 1976; the number of people 
with some university education nearly tripled. Women made great 
educational gains: the percentage of women with preuniversity edu- 
cation grew more than 300 percent while women with university 
education grew more than 600 percent. By academic year 1985-86, 
about 84 percent of the primary-school-age population (more than 
6 million of the 7.2 million children between the ages of seven and 
twelve) were enrolled in primary school. Less than 30 percent of 
eligible youth, however, attended intermediate and secondary 
schools. Because as many as 16 percent of Egyptian children were 
receiving no education in the 1980s, the literacy rate lagged be- 
hind the expansion in enrollments; in 1990 only 45 percent of the 
population could read and write. 


Literacy class for girls at women 's 
vocational training center 
Courtesy U NIC EF (Sean Sprague) 

Students in an engineering 
class at Cairo University 
Courtesy Embassy of Egypt, 

Egypt: A Country Study 

Law Number 139 of 1981, which defined the structure of pre- 
university public education, made the nine-year basic cycle com- 
pulsory. Regardless of this law, most parents removed their children 
from school before they completed ninth grade. The basic cycle 
included six years of primary school and three years of intermedi- 
ate school. Promotion from primary to intermediate school was con- 
tingent upon obtaining passing scores on special examinations. 
Admission to the three-year secondary cycle (grades ten through 
twelve) also was determined by examination scores. Secondary stu- 
dents chose between a general (college preparatory) curriculum and 
a technical curriculum. During the eleventh and twelfth grades, 
students in the general curriculum concentrated their studies on 
the humanities, mathematics, or the sciences. Students in the tech- 
nical curriculum studied agriculture, communications, or indus- 
try. Students could advance between grades only after they received 
satisfactory scores on standardized tests. The Ministry of Educa- 
tion, however, strictly limited the number of times a student could 
retake an examination. ^ 

Various government ministries also operated training institutes 
that accepted students who had completed the basic cycle. Training- 
institute programs, which incorporated both secondary and post- 
secondary vocational education, varied in length and provided 
certificates to students who successfully completed the prescribed 
curricula. Teacher- training institutes, for example, offered a five- 
year program. In the academic year 1985-86, approximately 85,000 
students were enrolled in all training programs; 60 percent of the 
enrollees were women. 

As of 1990, problems persisted in Egypt's education system. For 
example, the government did not enforce laws requiring primary- 
school-age children to attend school. In some areas, as many as 
50 percent of the formally enrolled children did not regularly at- 
tend classes. There were also significant regional differences in the 
primary- school enrollment rate. In urban areas, nearly 90 percent 
of the school-age children attended. In some rural areas of Upper 
Egypt, only 50 percent attended. Overall, only half of the students 
enrolled in primary school completed all six grades. 

The enrollment rate for girls continued to be significantly lower 
than for boys. Although increases in the number of girls enrolled 
in school were greater than they were for boys in the 1960s and 
1970s, boys still outnumbered girls at every educational level. In 
1985-86, for example, only 45 percent of all primary students were 
girls. An estimated 75 percent of girls between the ages of six and 
twelve were enrolled in primary school compared with 94 percent 
of boys in the same age-group. Girls' primary- school enrollment 


The Society and Its Environment 

was lowest in Upper Egypt, where less than 30 percent of all stu- 
dents were girls. Girls also dropped out of primary school more 
frequently than boys. About 66- percent of the boys beginning 
primary school completed the primary cycle, while only 57 per- 
cent of the girls completed all six grades. Girls accounted for about 
41 percent of total intermediate school enrollment and 39 percent 
of secondary school enrollment. Among all girls aged twelve to eigh- 
teen in 1985-86, only 46 percent were enrolled in school. 

The shortage of teachers was a chronic problem, especially in 
rural primary schools. Under British rule, educated Egyptians had 
perceived teaching as a career that lacked prestige. Young people 
chose this career only when there was no other option or when it 
would serve as a stepping-stone to a more lucrative career in law. 
Despite improvements in training and salaries, teaching — especially 
at the primary level — remained a low-status career. In 1985-86, 
Egypt's primary and secondary schools employed only 155,000 
teachers to serve 9.6 million pupils — a ratio of about 62 students 
per teacher. Some city schools were so crowded that they operated 
two shifts daily. Many Egyptian teachers preferred to go abroad, 
where salaries were higher and classroom conditions better. Dur- 
ing the 1980s, the government granted 30,000 exit visas a year to 
teachers who had contracts to teach in Arab countries. 

Higher education expanded even more dramatically than the 
preuniversity system. In the first ten years following the 1952 Revo- 
lution, spending on higher education increased 400 percent. Be- 
tween academic years 1951-52 and 1978-79, student enrollment 
in public universities grew nearly 1,400 percent. In 1989-90 there 
were fourteen public universities with a total enrollment of 700,000. 
More than half of these institutions were established as autono- 
mous universities after 1952, four in the 1970s and five in the 1980s. 
The total number of female college students had doubled; by 
1985-86 women accounted for 32 percent of all students. In the 
1980s, public universities — accounting for roughly 7 percent of total 
student enrollment — received more than one-fourth of all current 
education-budget spending. 

Since the late 1970s, government policies have attempted to re- 
orient postsecondary education. The state expanded technical train- 
ing programs in agriculture, commerce, and a variety of other fields. 
Student subsidies were partially responsible for a 15 percent an- 
nual increase in enrollments in the country's five-year technical 
institutes. The technical institutes were set up to provide the growing 
private sector with trained personnel and to alleviate the shortage 
of skilled labor. Universities, however, permitted graduates of secon- 
dary schools and technical institutes to enroll as "external students," 


Egypt: A Country Study 

which meant they could not attend classes but were allowed to sit 
for examinations and to earn degrees. The policy resulted in a 
flourishing clandestine trade in class notes and overburdened profes- 
sors with additional examinations. Further, widespread desire for 
a university degree led many students in technical institutes to view 
their curricula as simply a stepping-stone to a university degree. 

Health and Welfare 

Since the 1952 Revolution, the government has striven to im- 
prove the general health of the population. The National Charter 
of 1962 stipulated that "the right of health welfare is foremost among 
the rights of every citizen." Per capita public spending for health 
increased almost 500 percent between 1952 and 1976. As a result 
of this spending, the average Egyptian in 1990 was healthier and 
lived longer than the typical Egyptian of the early 1950s. For ex- 
ample, life expectancy at birth, only thirty-nine years in 1952, had 
climbed to fifty-nine years for men and sixty years for women by 
1989. The crude death rate, which was 23.9 in 1952, had declined 
to 10.3 by 1990. Its main component, the infant mortality rate, 
declined more dramatically in the same period, from 193 infant 
deaths per 1,000 live births to 85 per 1,000. Nevertheless, major 
disparities remained in the mortality rates of cities and villages as 
well as in those of Upper and Lower Egypt. Although mortality 
and morbidity data were adequate for establishing general trends, 
they were not reliable for precise measurements. Egypt's official 
infant mortality rate, for example, was probably understated be- 
cause parents tended not to report infants who died in the first few 
weeks of life. Corrected estimates of the infant mortality rate for 
1990 ranged as high as 113 per 1,000 live births. 

Although mortality rates have declined since 1952, the main causes 
of death (respiratory ailments and diseases of the digestive tract) 
have remained unchanged for much of the twentieth century. Death 
rates for infants and children ages one to five dropped, but chil- 
dren remained the largest contributors to the mortality rate. Nearly 
seventeen infants and four children under five years of age died 
for each death of an individual between age five and thirty-four. 
Children younger than five years of age accounted for about half 
of all mortality — one of the world's highest rates. During the 1980s, 
diarrhea and associated dehydration accounted for 67 percent of 
the deaths among infants and children. Concern about this health 
problem prompted the government to establish the National Con- 
trol of Diarrheal Diseases Project (NCDDP) in 1982. With funds 
provided by the United States Agency for International Develop- 
ment, NCDDP initiated a program to educate health care workers 


Children 's immunization campaign promoted by health centers nationwide 
Dayas (traditional birth attendants), with the medical kits 
received upon completing their training 
Courtesy UNICEF (Sean Sprague) 


Egypt: A Country Study 

and families about oral-rehydration therapy. NCDDP's efforts 
helped reduce diarrhea- related deaths by 60 percent between 1983 
and 1988. The highest rates of infant mortality were in Upper 
Egypt, followed by Cairo, Alexandria, and other urban areas; the 
lowest rates were in Lower Egypt. 

The average Egyptian's nutritional status compared favorably 
with that of people in most middle- and low-income countries. 
Bread, rice, legumes, seasonal fresh fruits, and vegetables such as 
onions and tomatoes constituted the daily diet of a majority of the 
population. Middle- and upper-income families also regularly con- 
sumed red meat, poultry, or fish. Caloric intake was adequate, 
although there were indications of widespread vitamin deficiencies. 
The most recent surveys of nutrition, undertaken in the late 1970s, 
revealed that approximately 25 percent of public- school children 
were either malnourished or anemic. The incidence of poor nutri- 
tion was highest in rural areas, where nearly 33 percent of sur- 
veyed children were malnourished, compared with only 17 percent 
in the cities; among low-income families, about 50 percent of all 
children showed indications of inadequate nutrition. 

The major endemic diseases in 1990 were tuberculosis, tracho- 
ma, schistosomiasis, and malaria. Schistosomiasis, carried by blood 
flukes and spread to humans by water-dwelling snails, was a major 
parasitic affliction. Historically, the disease was most prevalent in 
the Delta, where standing water in irrigation ditches provided an 
ideal environment for the snails and other parasites. Those work- 
ing in agriculture were particularly susceptible; their prevalence 
rate was nearly three times that of nonagriculturists. Debility ow- 
ing to schistosomiasis could not be calculated accurately; its severity 
generally varied depending on the infected organs, commonly the 
bladder, genitals, liver, and lungs. Treatments for the disease are 
not always effective, and the main medicines have toxic side ef- 
fects. The government tried to control the spread of the disease 
by educating the population about the dangers of using stagnant 
water. According to Ministry of Health statistics, the incidence of 
schistosomiasis dropped by half between 1935 and 1966. One of 
the negative health consequences of the Aswan High Dam, however, 
was an increase in the incidence of schistosomiasis in Upper Egypt, 
where the dam has permitted a change from basin to perennial 
agriculture with its continuous presence of standing water. 

The Ministry of Health provided free, basic health care at 
hundreds of public medical facilities. General health centers offered 
routine medical care, maternal and child care, family planning ser- 
vices, and screening for hospital admittance. These clinics were 
usually associated with the 1,300 social service units or the 5,000 


The Society and Its Environment 

social care cooperatives that served both urban and rural areas. 
In addition, in 1990 the Ministry of Health maintained 344 general 
hospitals, 280 specialized health care units for the treatment of en- 
demic diseases, respiratory ailments, cancer and other diseases, and 
dental centers. There were about 45,000 beds in all government 
hospitals, plus an additional 40,000 beds available in private health 
institutes. The number of trained medical personnel was high rela- 
tive to most middle-income countries. In 1990 there were more 
than 73,300 doctors in the country, approximately 1 physician per 
715 inhabitants. There were also about 70,000 certified nurses. 
Medical personnel tended to be concentrated in the cities, and most 
preferred private practice to employment in public facilities. Few- 
er than 30 percent of all doctors and scarcely 10 percent of nurses 
served in villages. 

Although public health clinics were distributed relatively even- 
ly throughout the country, their services were generally inadequate 
because of the shortage of doctors and nurses and the lack of modern 
equipment. In both cities and villages, patients using the free or 
low-cost government facilities expected a lengthy journey and a 
long wait to see a physician; service was usually impersonal and 
perfunctory. Dissatisfaction with public clinics forced even low- 
income patients to patronize the expensive private clinics. In rural 
areas, village midwives assisted between 50 percent and 80 per- 
cent of all births. Even when women used the maternal care avail- 
able, prenatal care was minimal, and most births occurred before 
trained personnel arrived. 

Further improvements in the health of Egyptians required in- 
creasing the effectiveness of the primary health-care system and 
improving public sanitation and health education. In 1990 approx- 
imately 25 percent of the total population, including 36 percent 
of all villagers, did not have access to safe water for drinking and 
food preparation. Use of unhygienic water was the major cause 
of diarrheal diseases. In addition, more than 50 percent of all 
families lived in homes that lacked plumbing. Sewage facilities 
throughout the country were inadequate. Increasing the level of 
women's education would probably help to decrease the infant mor- 
tality rate. Studies have found that infant mortality decreases as 
mothers increase their level of education, even when age and 
family income are held constant. Surveys undertaken in the 1970s 
indicated that 78 percent of the infants born to illiterate women 
survived early childhood. That figure increased to 84 percent for 
infants born to women who finished primary school and to 90 per- 
cent for infants born to women with secondary or higher education. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

The government also had established 1,300 social service centers 
and 5,100 social care cooperatives by 1990. The social service cen- 
ters provided instruction in adult literacy, health education, voca- 
tional training, and family planning. The social care cooperatives 
had similar services and also provided child care centers for work- 
ing mothers, aid for the handicapped, and transportation for the 
elderly and infirm. About 65 percent of the social service centers 
were in villages; 65 percent of social care cooperatives were in cities. 
In many villages, the social service centers were associated with 
the local public health clinic and supplemented the primary health 
care services. The overall impact of the centers and cooperatives 
has been limited by the lack of funding since the late 1970s. 

The government instituted a social security program in the ear- 
ly 1960s to provide pensions, through forced savings, for employees. 
Coverage also included unemployment, disability, and death bene- 
fits. In 1990 less than half of the work force participated in the pro- 
gram. Self-employed individuals and most private sector workers 
(including domestics, farm workers, and casual laborers) were not 
covered by the program. The overwhelming majority of participants 
were civil servants and employees of government enterprises. Work- 
ers in private factories could only participate in social security if 
their employers chose to make regular contributions to the program. 

* * * 

Although there is extensive English-language literature on Egypt, 
few studies treat Egyptian society comprehensively. The most detailed 
discussion of Egypt's geography is in W.B. Fisher's The Middle East. 
This research has been updated in the article, "Egypt: Physical and 
Social Geography," in The Middle East and North Africa, 1989. 

A useful overview of contemporary Egyptian society is Anthony 
McDermott's Egypt From Nasser to Mubarak. Although primarily poli- 
tical science books, Raymond A. Hinnebusch, Jr.'s Egyptian Poli- 
tics under Sadat, Robert Springborg's Mubarak's Egypt, and John 
Waterbury's The Egypt of Nasser and Sadat all contain valuable detail 
about social groups and the impact of the government's social and 
economic policies on class structure. 

Several scholars have written insightful studies of rural society. 
The classic study of traditional village life, first published in French 
in the 1930s, is Henry Habib Ayrout's The Egyptian Peasant. 
Although Ayrout's data are outdated, his descriptions of customs, 
kinship, and farming techniques still have contemporary relevance. 
A recent book, Lila Abu-Lughod's Veiled Sentiments, presents equally 
thorough descriptions of customs and kinship patterns among the 


The Society and Its Environment 

beduins. Egypt's land redistribution policies of the 1950s and 1960s 
have attracted considerable interest from scholars who have reached 
very different conclusions about the impact of the policies. Iliya 
Harik's The Political Mobilization of Peasants suggests that the small 
peasant owners and the landless benefited most from redistribu- 
tion. However, in In a Moment of Enthusiasm Leonard Binder argues 
that the land redistribution primarily benefited and helped to con- 
solidate the class of middle peasants. Hamied Ansari challenges 
the theses of Harik and Binder in Egypt: The Stalled Society. In Family, 
Power and Politics in Egypt, Robert Springborg argues that the old 
landlord class retained substantial influence and continued to control 
substantial land despite official limits on individual holdings. 

There are many studies about life in urban Egypt. Among the 
most interesting is Unni Wikan's Life Among the Poor of Cairo. This 
book, a case study of the family and friends of one lower-class wom- 
an, provides valuable insights into the strength of family ties in 
the midst of poverty and adversity. Andrea B. Rugh's Family in 
Contemporary Egypt analyzes the various family adaptation patterns 
to the social and economic changes that have been occurring since 
the 1960s. 

Articles in many periodicals address the role of religion in con- 
temporary Egyptian society. The most useful studies generally are 
published in current issues of quarterlies such as the International 
Journal of Middle East Studies, Middle East Report, and Middle East 
Journal. Giles Keppel's Muslim Extremism in Egypt is a penetrating 
study of the role of Islamic political groups in the late 1970s and 
early 1980s. 

Finally, one of the most valuable ways of gaining insight into 
Egyptian society is through the novels, plays, and short stories of 
several contemporary writers whose works have been translated 
into English. The best-known novelist is Naguib Mahfouz, who 
won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988. His novels, including 
Midaq Alley, The Fountain and Tomb, Mirrors, and The Trilogy, deal 
with the lives of the poor and the middle class and provide glimpses 
into the impact of social, political, and economic changes on in- 
dividuals and families. (For further information and complete cita- 
tions, see Bibliography.) 


Chapter 3. The Economy 

Senwosret (Kheperkare) and god Min; sunken relief on limestone 
with hieroglyphs 

FROM THE 1850s UNTIL the 1930s, Egypt's economy exhibited 
a classic Third World dependency syndrome, the essence of which 
was reliance on the export of a single, usually primary, commodity. 
In the case of Egypt, the commodity was long-staple cotton, in- 
troduced in the mid- 1820s during the reign of Muhammad Ali 
(1805-49), and made possible by the switch from basin to peren- 
nial, modern irrigation. Cotton cultivation was a key ingredient 
in an ambitious program that the Egyptian ruler undertook to diver- 
sify and develop the economy. 

Another such ingredient was industrialization. Industrialization, 
however, proved for various domestic and external reasons to be 
less than successful, and until the 1930s, virtually no industrial 
build-up occurred. The failure of industrialization resulted large- 
ly from tariff restrictions that Britain imposed on Egypt through 
the 1838 commercial treaty, which allowed only minuscule tariffs, 
if any. The isolated industrial ventures initiated by members of 
Egypt's landed aristocracy, who otherwise channeled their invest- 
ment into land acquisition and speculation, were nipped in the bud 
by foreign competition. The few surviving enterprises were owned 
by the foreign community. These enterprises either enjoyed natural 
protection as in the case of sugar and cotton processing, or benefited 
from the special skills that the foreign owners had acquired, as in 
the case of cigarette making by Greeks and Turks. 

The beginnings of industrialization awaited the depression of the 
late 1920s and 1930s and World War II. The depression sent cot- 
ton prices tumbling, and Britain acceded to Egyptian demands to 
raise tariffs. Moreover, World War II, by substantially reducing 
the flow of foreign goods into the country, gave further impetus 
to the establishment of import- substitution industries. A distinguish- 
ing feature of the factories built at this time was that they were 
owned by Egyptian entrepreneurs. 

In spite of the lack of industrialization, the economy grew rapidly 
throughout the nineteenth century. Growth, however, was con- 
fined to the cotton sector and the supporting transportation, finan- 
cial, and other facilities. Little of the cotton revenues was invested 
in economic development. The revenues were largely drained out 
of the country as repatriated profits or repayments of debts that 
the state had incurred to pay for irrigation works and the ex- 
travagance of the khedives. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Rapid economic growth ended in the early 1900s. The supply 
of readily available land had been largely exhausted and multiple 
cropping, concentration on cotton, and perennial irrigation had 
lessened the fertility of the soil. Cotton yields dropped in the early 
1900s and recovered to their former level only in the 1940s, through 
investments in modern inputs such as fertilizers and drainage. 

The fall in agricultural productivity and terms of trade led to 
a stagnation in the per capita gross national product (GNP — see 
Glossary) between the end of World War I and the 1952 Revolution: 
the GNP averaged £E43.0 (for value of the Egyptian pound — see 
Glossary), in 1954 prices, at both ends of the period. By 1952 Egypt 
was in the throes of both economic and political crises, which cul- 
minated in the assumption of power by the Free Officers. 

Structure, Growth, and Development of the Economy 

By necessity if not by design, the revolutionary regime gave con- 
siderably greater priority to economic development than did the 
monarchy, and the economy has been a central government con- 
cern since then. While the economy grew steadily, it sometimes 
exhibited sharp fluctuations. Analysis of economic growth is fur- 
ther complicated by the difficulty in obtaining reliable statistics. 
Growth figures are often disputed, and economists contend that 
growth estimates may be grossly inaccurate because of the infor- 
mal economy and workers' remittances, which may contribute as 
much as one-fourth of GNP (see Remittances, this ch.). According 
to one estimate, the gross domestic product (GDP — see Glossary), 
at 1965 constant prices, grew at an annual compound rate of about 
4.2 percent between 1955 and 1975. This was about 1.7 times larger 
than the annual population growth rate of 2 . 5 percent in the same 
period. The period between 1967 and 1974, the final years of Gamal 
Abdul Nasser's presidency and the early part of Anwar as Sadat's, 
however, were lean years, with growth rates of only about 3.3 per- 
cent. The slowdown was caused by many factors, including agricul- 
tural and industrial stagnation and the costs of the June 1967 War. 
Investments, which were a crucial factor for the preceding growth, 
also nose-dived and recovered only in 1975 after the dramatic 1973 
increase in oil prices. 

Like most countries in the Middle East, Egypt partook of the 
oil boom and suffered the subsequent slump. Available figures sug- 
gest that between 1975 and 1980 the GDP (at 1980 prices) grew 
at an annual rate of more than 1 1 percent. This impressive achieve- 
ment resulted, not from the contribution of manufacturing or 
agriculture, but from oil exports, remittances, foreign aid, and 
grants (see Balance of Payments and Main Sources of Foreign 


The Economy 

Exchange, this ch.). From the mid-1980s, the GDP growth slowed 
as a result of the 1985-86 crash in oil prices. In the two succeeding 
years, the GDP grew at no more than an annual rate of 2.9 per- 
cent. Of concern for the future was the decline of the fixed invest- 
ment ratio from around 30 percent during most of the 1975-85 
decade to 22 percent in 1987. 

The post-World War II growth was accompanied by a certain 
degree of diversification of the economic structure, although not 
without serious flaws in the diversification (see table 3, Appendix). 
By 1952 agriculture's share of GDP at fiscal year (FY — see Glos- 
sary) 1959 market prices was 33 percent, industry's (including min- 
ing and electricity) share reached 13 percent, and the service sectors' 
share amounted to 54 percent. The diversification resulted from 
the decline of agriculture's contribution to the GDP and the ascen- 
dancy of industry and, particularly, of government services. Agricul- 
ture's share in the GDP dropped by more than half from 1952, 
stabilizing near 15 percent through most of the 1980s. Industry's 
share moved in the opposite direction: from only 13 percent in 1952, 
it hovered around 35 percent in the 1980s. 

Although the industrial sector's contribution to the GNP rose 
during this period, that growth was due to the increase in energy- 
related activity, especially oil-drilling. Manufacturing stagnated and 
may even have declined. In 1974 (when data for the subsector be- 
came available), manufacturing accounted for 15 percent of GNP, 
but its share fell to 12 percent in 1986 and remained there in early 
1990. The lackluster performance of manufacturing was one of the 
main reasons for the Egyptian economy's inability to become self- 
sustaining, and for its dependence on oil and external financing. 

The services (including construction) held relatively steady, com- 
prising around one-half of GDP, a figure that included the contri- 
butions of the various subsectors. An important subsector from a 
developmental viewpoint was the one entitled "other services" — 
mostly government services. These averaged 14.2 percent of the 
growth in GDP in the years from 1952 to 1959 and 32.7 percent 
of the growth in the years from 1959 to 1969. The increase resulted 
primarily from the expansion in the bureaucracy that followed the 
1961 decree guaranteeing government jobs for all university gradu- 
ates. The trend continued under Anwar as Sadat (1970-79), and 
slowed, or may have reversed under Husni Mubarak as the state 
became financially incapable of hiring the many new job-seeking 
graduates (see The Role of Government, this ch.). Although govern- 
ment employment may have encouraged economic growth tem- 
porarily, it impeded it over the long run, competing for scarce 
investment funds and exacerbating the trade deficit. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

In spite of progress in the 1980s, by the end of the decade Egypt 
still had a long way to go in expanding and improving existing ser- 
vices such as housing, transportation, telecommunications, and water 
supply. Housing remained inadequate; urban dwellings were often 
very crowded, and residents lived in makeshift accommodations. 
Housing was essentially a private activity, and the government tend- 
ed to underinvest in the sector. The electric grid reached essen- 
tially all villages in Egypt by the early 1980s, but blackouts in Cairo 
and other cities were not uncommon. A major sewage project was 
under way. It aimed at revamping and expanding the overflow- 
ing, antiquated network of sewers, pumping stations, and treat- 
ment plants. Some of the work was scheduled for completion by 
1991 . With help from the United States Agency for International 
Development (AID), telephone lines doubled at the end of the FY 
1982-86 Five-Year Plan. 

Because infrastructural improvements and additions were cost- 
ly and required a long lead time, no relief was anticipated before 
the mid-1990s. The FY 1987-91 Five-Year Plan allocated more 
than £E4.1 billion for infrastructure. The problem that faced the 
government was how to balance the badly needed improvement 
of the infrastructure against the fact that such investments created 
only temporary employment and had small impact on industries 
that served or were served by the infrastructure. 


Egypt's road and rail network was developed primarily to trans- 
port population and was most extensive in the densely populated 
areas near the Nile River (Nahr an Nil) and in the Nile Delta. Areas 
along the Mediterranean coast were generally served by a few paved 
roads or rail lines, but large areas of the Western Desert, Sinai 
Peninsula (Sinai), and the mountains in the east were inaccessible 
except by air (see fig. 5). The Nile and a system of canals in the 
Delta were the traditional means of transporting goods, although 
freight was increasingly carried by truck or rail. The entire sys- 
tem was unable to keep up with rapid population growth, particu- 
larly in the large urban areas, and expansion and modernization 
of all forms of transportation were under way. 

In early 1990, Egypt had more than 49,000 kilometers of roads, 
of which about 15,000 kilometers were paved, 2,500 kilometers were 
gravel, and the remaining 31,500 kilometers were earthen. The 
highway system was concentrated in the Nile Valley north of Aswan 
and throughout the Delta; paved roads also extended along the 




The Economy 

Mediterranean coast from the Libyan border in the west to the bor- 
der with Israel. In the east, a surfaced road ran south from Suez 
along the Red Sea, and another connected areas along the southern 
coast of Sinai from Suez to the Israeli town of Elat. A well main- 
tained route circled through several western oases and tied into the 
main Nile corridor of highways at Cairo in the north and Asyut 
in the south. Large areas of the Western Desert, the mountainous 
areas near the Red Sea, and the interior of the Sinai Peninsula 
remained without any permanent- surface roads, however. 

The state-owned Egyptian Railways had more than 4,800 kilome- 
ters of track running through the populated areas of the Nile Valley 
and the coastal regions. Most of the track was 1.435-meter stan- 
dard gauge, although 347 kilometers were 0.750-meter narrow 
gauge. Portions of the main route connecting Luxor with Cairo and 
Alexandria were double tracked and a commuter line linking Cairo 
with the suburb of Hulwan was electrified. Built primarily to trans- 
port people, the passenger service along the Nile was heavily used. 

Less heavily traveled routes provided connections to outlying 
areas. A coastal route west from Alexandria to the Libyan border 
was being upgraded to allow for increased passenger travel. Tracks 
along the Mediterranean coast of Sinai, destroyed during the June 
1967 War, had been repaired, and service was restored between 
Al Qantarah on the Suez Canal and the Israeli railroad system in 
the Gaza Strip. New ferry boats allowed passengers at Aswan, the 
southern terminus of the Egyptian Railways, to connect with the 
Sudanese system. A new line intended to export phosphates was 
under construction from Al Kharijah in the Western Desert to the 
port of Bur Safajah. 

The southern leg of the forty-two-kilometer Cairo Metro, the 
first subway system in Africa or the Middle East, opened in 1987. 
This line, built with the cooperation of France, linked Hulwan in 
the south with three main downtown stations, named Sadat, Nasser, 
and Mubarak. In 1989 the northeast line opened, extending from 
downtown to the suburbs. The city planned to build an east- west 
route across the Nile to Giza (Al Jizah). The government hoped 
that the subway construction would relieve the extremely jammed 
streets, buses, streetcars, and trains. 

Although Egypt had sixty- six airfields with paved runways, only 
the airports at Cairo and Alexandria handled international traffic. 
EgyptAir, the principal government airline, maintained an exten- 
sive international network and had domestic flights from Cairo and 
Alexandria to Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel (Abu Sunbul), and Al 
Ghardaqah on the Red Sea. In 1983 EgyptAir carried 1.6 million 
passengers. A smaller, state-owned airline, Air Sinai, provided 


Egypt: A Country Study 

service from Cairo to points in the Sinai Peninsula. Zas Passenger 
Service, the newest airline and the only one that was privately 
owned, had daily flights from Cairo to Aswan, Luxor, Al Gharda- 
qah, and points in Sinai. 

Alexandria was Egypt's principal port and in the early 1990s 
was capable of handling 13 million metric tons of cargo yearly. 
Egypt's two other main ports, Port Said (Bur Said) and Suez, re- 
opened in 1975, after an eight-year hiatus following the June 1967 
War. Realizing the importance of shipping to the economy, the 
government embarked on an ambitious plan in the late 1980s to 
build new ports and increase capacity at existing facilities, includ- 
ing constructing a facility capable of handling up to 20 million metric 
tons of cargo just west of Alexandria. Bur Safajah on the Red Sea 
was being developed to handle phosphate exports, and the first stage 
of a new port at the mouth of the Nile's eastern Damietta (Dumyat) 
tributary opened in 1986. 

Egypt had about 3,500 kilometers of inland waterways. The Nile 
constituted about half of this system, and the rest was canals. Several 
canals in the Delta accommodated ocean-going vessels, and a canal 
from the Nile just north of Cairo to the Suez Canal at Ismailia 
(Al Ismailiyah) permitted ships to pass from the Nile to the Red 
Sea without entering the Mediterranean Sea. Extensive boat and 
ferry service on Lake Nasser moved cargo and passengers between 
Aswan and Sudan. 

The Suez Canal was Egypt's most important waterway and one 
of the world's strategic links, being the shortest maritime route be- 
tween Europe and the Middle East, South Asia, and the Orient. 
Serious proposals for a canal between the Mediterranean and the 
Red Sea had been made as early as the fifteenth century by the 
Venetians, and Napoleon ordered the first survey of the region to 
assess a canal's feasibility in 1799. After several subsequent studies 
in the early nineteenth century, construction began in 1859. After 
ten years of construction and numerous unforeseen difficulties, the 
canal finally opened in 1869 (see Suez^Canal, this ch.). 

The canal extends 160 kilometers from Port Said on the Mediter- 
ranean to a point just south of Suez on the Red Sea. It can handle 
ships with up to sixteen meters draught; transit times through the 
length of the canal averaged fifteen hours. Passing occurs in con- 
voys with large passing bays every twenty-five kilometers to ac- 
commodate traffic from opposite directions. Traffic patterns have 
changed considerably over the last century, reflecting different 
global priorities: passenger transit has dropped while the move- 
ment of goods, especially petroleum, has increased dramatically. 


Cairo metro train, the first underground system in the Middle East and in Africa 

Courtesy Embassy of Egypt, Washington 

It was estimated that before the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, 15 percent 
of the world's total sea traffic passed through the canal. 


In addition to its radio and television facilities, which were well 
developed, Egypt had a domestic telephone system that in 1984 
counted approximately 600,000 telephones, most of them located 
in Cairo or Alexandria (see The Political Role of the Media, ch. 
4). Although improvement to the system was under way in the early 
1990s, domestic service was still unreliable. The quality of inter- 
national service was better, as international calls traveled over a 
variety of high-quality links: submarine cables to Lebanon and to 
southern Europe; radio-relay links with Libya and Sudan; and a 
ground satellite station just south of Cairo with two antennas for 
worldwide telephone, television, and data transmissions. Egypt was 
to be a focal part of the Arab Satellite (Arabsat) communications 
network linking the various Arab states, scheduled to be inaugu- 
rated in 1991. 

The Role of Government 

Muhammad Ali's era saw strong state intervention in the economy; 
the subsequent century witnessed a passive state and the dominance 


Egypt: A Country Study 

of private foreign and domestic investors. Yet both failed to achieve 
economic development or to lift Egypt from poverty and depen- 
dence. The Gamal Abdul Nasser regime (1952-70) inherited an 
underdeveloped economy with great inequalities. A few rich foreign- 
ers and nationals controlled the country's wealth, from large landed 
estates to manufacturing and commercial firms, while the bulk of 
the population was poor and disenfranchised. The new regime, bor- 
rowing from the debates and programs put forward by various po- 
litical parties and interests during the 1930s and World War II, 
undertook the task of economic restructuring (see Nasser and Arab 
Socialism, ch. 1). 

The process transformed the state into the dominant economic 
agent in the country and culminated in a new economic system 
labeled "Arab socialism" in the National Charter issued in 1962. 
The government implemented a land reform program that aimed 
at eliminating what it referred to as a "feudalist" stratification of 
landholding and instead distributing land to small peasants and 
the landless. By 1964 a huge public sector had evolved, including 
all utilities, communications, and finance as well as large manufac- 
turing enterprises, transportation, wholesale and foreign trade, some 
big retail stores, and construction firms. By 1973 the ratio of pub- 
lic to private in the composition of GDP was 58 to 42 in contrast 
to 15 to 85 in 1953. The government fixed the exchange rate of 
the Egyptian pound, began development planning, and controlled 
foreign trade. Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956 and in 
the early 1960s nationalized about 300 key enterprises owned by 
Egyptian nationals and foreigners. The private sector came under 
extensive regulation. 

Because of the economic difficulties in the second half of the 
1960s, which were exacerbated by the June 1967 War with Israel, 
the regime began to reconsider aspects of state controls and its at- 
titude toward the private sector. A pronounced shift in orienta- 
tion, however, awaited Sadat's takeover at the end of 1970. 

A combination of economic problems, political considerations, 
and his own predilections led Sadat after the October 1973 War, 
to declare a new policy he dubbed infitah (opening or open door). 
The main ingredients of the policy were to relax existing govern- 
ment controls over the economy and bureaucratic procedures, to 
encourage the private sector, and to stimulate a large inflow of for- 
eign funds. 

The open-door policy succeeded in generating a large inflow of 
foreign funds in the form of remittances, foreign grants, and aid, 
especially from the United States after the signing of the Camp 
David Accords with Israel. The economy also grew at impressive 


The Economy 

rates. But the negative side of the policy was that the country was 
flooded with imports, and the government was compelled several 
times in the 1980s to reimpose import restrictions (see Imports; 
Balance of Payments and Main Sources of Foreign Exchange, this 
ch.). The income gap between rich and poor widened, and con- 
spicuous consumption reappeared (see Urban Society, ch. 2). 

Despite the infitah, the government found itself even more deeply 
involved in the economy. Subsidies grew from 1 percent of GDP in 
1970 to 11 percent in 1979. The state's contribution to fixed in- 
vestment remained high, at 87 percent in 1977. In the same year, 
government employment accounted for 32 percent of the total, but 
the increased personnel did little to clear up the bureaucratic snarls 
that blocked development. Private domestic and international in- 
vestment went primarily to housing and trading companies. For- 
eign investment remained meager because of the cumbersome 
regulations, the bureaucracy, the political uncertainty, and insuffi- 
cient incentives. 

Mubarak's Gradualism? 

Whereas Nasser followed a statist approach to economics and 
Sadat, at least in theory, tried to break away from that model 
through infitah, analysts found it harder to label Mubarak's poli- 
cy. It has variously been called 4 'gradualism, ' ' "reform by stealth, ' ' 
and even "indecisiveness." The president himself seemed to indi- 
cate his commitment to privatization and at the same time to the 
public sector, which he once described as the only cushion for the 
poor. Analysts attributed this state of affairs to such reasons as the 
personality of the president, vested public and private interests, 
fragmentation of the elite, the government's long-standing com- 
mitment to providing a safety net for the broad mass of the popu- 
lation that was its main source of legitimacy, the questionable 
success of the infitah, and the sheer weight of the bureaucracy. 

Available information seemed to indicate perceptible, albeit slow, 
changes in the relative weights of the state and private sectors in 
the economy that favored the latter. For example, between FY 1983 
and FY 1986 the ratio of public investment to gross investment 
dropped from 83 percent to 70 percent. The FY 1987-91 Five- Year 
Plan envisioned private sector investment to rise to 39 percent of 
all investment compared with 23 percent in the previous plan. In 
September 1982, Mubarak introduced a new investment law that 
offered Egyptian investors most of the privileges foreign investors 
had enjoyed. The draft of another new investment law was being 
debated in early 1989 in the People's Assembly (Majlis ash Shaab, 
formerly the National Assembly), but as of early 1990 no action 


Egypt: A Country Study 

had been taken (see Direct Foreign Investment, this ch.). This latest 
proposal aimed at combining and amending all the investment laws 
passed in the preceding fifteen years to provide more incentives 
for the private sector. 

Private- sector investment was largely confined to the service areas 
and agriculture, where land was privately owned, although the state 
retained considerable influence through a web of price and other 
controls. At the end of the FY 1982-86 Five-Year Plan, 57 per- 
cent of private investment was in housing and about 1 1 percent 
in agriculture. The private sector made some inroads into the 
tourist industry after the mid-1980s, when privatization was ac- 
tively encouraged by the minister of tourism. As of 1990, private 
investment had not yet become a major player in the commodity- 
producing sectors, apart from agriculture. Foreign direct invest- 
ment was not forthcoming, and what little there was went mainly 
into the oil industry. 

The government's control of the economy was reinforced by var- 
ious financial and administrative mechanisms. Prominent among 
these were price controls, setting the exchange rate of the Egyp- 
tian pound, collection of public revenues and allocation of expen- 
ditures, and development planning. Since 1987, reforms loosened 
the government's control over these areas. 

Development Planning 

Planning in Egypt remained essentially a blueprint for invest- 
ment, and the balance between supply and demand was adjusted 
through quasi-market mechanisms and fiscal and monetary poli- 
cies. The emergence of Egyptian economic planning could be traced 
to the creation in 1952 of the Permanent Council for National 
Production (PCNP). The PCNP initiated partial planning by sur- 
veying the country's basic economic resources and proposing in- 
vestment projects and budgets. More comprehensive planning 
awaited the formulation of the First Five- Year Plan (1960-65). The 
plan was the work of the National Planning Committee, which ab- 
sorbed the PCNP and other planning affiliates. It sought progress 
on all economic fronts, following what economists called a balanced 
growth model, which required heavy investments. It favored heavy 
industry, electricity, irrigation, and land reclamation — a persistent 
pattern since then. 

Achievements were mixed: GDP grew at a rate close to the tar- 
get of 7 percent per annum, but other goals were not met. The 
lack of macroeconomic coordination and implementation mechan- 
isms, as well as the projection of unrealistic targets are cited as rea- 
sons for this failure. Furthermore, private- sector investment, which 


The Economy 

was expected to play a key role, did not materialize, especially after 
the wave of nationalization in the early 1960s. 

A number of subsequent plans were never implemented. It is 
indicative of the long hiatus in planning that the next plan was also 
called the First Five-Year Plan (FY 1982-86). (To avoid confusion, 
this plan is referred to as the 1980s First Five-Year Plan, and the ear- 
lier one as the 1960s First Five-Year Plan). It was seen as part of a 
long-term plan extending to the year 2002. With this plan, the 
Ministry of Planning began to assume major responsibility for the 
economic process. 

The plan itself had the same thrust as that of the 1960s, emphasiz- 
ing heavy industry and electricity, and suffered similar problems. 
Apart from improving the infrastructure, especially in the metropoli- 
tan areas, its targets, including an annual GDP growth rate of 8 
percent, were seldom accomplished. Before its conclusion, Egypt 
was feeling the heavy burden of external debt (see Debt and Re- 
structuring, this ch.). 

The latest plan, the Second Five-Year Plan (FY 1987-91), prom- 
ised continuity and change. The most prominent investment areas 
were those of electricity and power, industry, public utilities, irri- 
gation, and land reclamation. It anticipated a GDP growth rate 
of 5.8 percent per year, which in early 1990 it was already failing 
to meet. Most noticeably, the plan envisaged that private- sector 
investment would almost double to 39 percent of the total, from 
23 percent in the previous plan. The increase was predicated upon 
an assessment of the sector's outlays in the preceding plan, which 
showed outlays as often surpassing targets, and upon the incen- 
tives the government would offer. The government specified other 
plan objectives, such as increased productivity, rather than added 
capacity; a shift to exports rather than import substitution; improve- 
ment of data gathering by spreading computer usage and training 
census personnel; and redressing regional disparities through in- 
vestment in new and previously neglected regions. 

Pricing and Subsidy 

Beginning in 1952 the government initiated a program of price 
controls that included both indirect taxation and subsidies. The 
aim was to reallocate resources to serve various goals ranging from 
industrialization to social welfare, but the effects were mixed. In 
agriculture, for example, the state set the price of agricultural in- 
puts, such as fertilizers and pesticides, and crops, especially cot- 
ton and sugar. Some basic consumer commodities, especially food 
and energy, and services, such as education, were subsidized to 
make them available for the bulk of the population. In industry, 


Egypt: A Country Study 

public enterprises paid subsidized rates for energy but had to sell 
their products to consumers at fixed, low prices. 

Price distortions and subsidies were magnified over time, result- 
ing in the misallocation of resources and straining the government 
budget. For example, in 1987 the ratio of consumer price per 
kilowatt-hour of electricity to production and distribution costs was 
less than 0.25. This shortfall, coupled with rising consumption, 
contributed to a growing government deficit, which compelled the 
government to reconsider its pricing policy (see also Energy; 
Manufacturing; Agriculture, this ch.). 

Exchange Rates 

In 1835 Muhammad Ali introduced as a monetary reform a bi- 
metallic currency system. As a result of the decline of the price 
of silver and the inflation associated with it, in 1885 the govern- 
ment switched to the gold standard. Subsequently, and up to 1948, 
the country's currency was pegged to the British pound sterling, 
then the dominant world currency. In 1949 authorities fixed the 
Egyptian pound with the International Monetary Fund (IMF — 
see Glossary) at the rate of £E1 = US$2.87. In May 1962 a uni- 
form premium was applied to most foreign exchange transactions 
that in effect made £E1 worth US$2.30. 

From the mid-1960s onward, many experts were convinced that 
the Egyptian pound was overvalued, adversely affecting the balance 
of payments by making exports less competitive and imports artifi- 
cially cheaper. Needing foreign currency in the late 1960s, the 
government applied a premium rate of £E1 = US$1 .70, which be- 
came known as the parallel market, to a range of transactions. The 
rate lasted until 1975. 

After 1975 a complex, multiple-rate exchange system emerged, 
a manifestation of the infitah and the tinkering of Mubarak's re- 
gime. It continued in 1990 to be a subject of negotiations between 
the government and the IMF (see Debt and Restructuring, this 
ch). Three major rates dominated the system: the rates of the Cen- 
tral Bank, the rates of the "free" commercial banks, and the rate 
on the free market, all of which tended to fluctuate. The three rates 
were converted into a weighted average to calculate such entities 
as GDP and GNP in United States dollars. 

The Central Bank rate had been fixed at £E1 = US$1.43 since 
1979. This rate was used for oil and cotton exports, Suez Canal 
fees, imports of essential foodstuffs and agrochemical inputs, and 
a large segment of public-sector capital transactions and bilateral 
payment agreements. The arrangement kept the subsidy bill nomi- 
nally lower than its actual costs in world market prices. The parallel 


The Economy 

market rate was institutionalized in 1987, as part of an agreement 
with the IMF, into a private commercial bank rate. About forty 
banks set the rate on a daily basis to reflect the changing value of 
the currency in the free market; hence the rate was partly free and 
partly fixed. It covered part of workers' remittances and tourist 
receipts, some export items, and certain private- and public- sector 
imports that did not fall within the Central Bank rate. The free- 
market rate covered part of workers' remittances as well as tourist 
receipts and some export receipts. It was tacitly approved by the 
government but remained illegal. The presence of commercial bank 
rates and free-market rates reflected the weakening hold of the gov- 
ernment on the exchange system. 

Public Finance 

Until 1952, budgets seemed to have been drafted as much to 
obscure as to reveal the country's finances. Muhammad Ali appar- 
ently felt no obligation to make public the condition of the trea- 
sury, and his private expenses were not separated from those of 
the government. The same arbitrariness was exercised by his suc- 
cessors, a practice that contributed to ruinous fiscal policy. A rela- 
tively sound fiscal system was first imposed on Egypt in the 1880s 
by Europeans whose primary motivation was to collect debts (see 
Debt and Restructuring, this ch.). Upon the termination of the 
British protectorate in 1922, Egyptian governments once more be- 
gan to manipulate budgets so as to divert public funds to private 
pockets. The situation lasted until the Free Officers assumed power. 

Among the charges that the new regime made against the monar- 
chy were corruption and the abuse of public money. Gaining the 
confidence of the population entailed the sound management of 
public finance. Extensive budget data have subsequently been pub- 
lished, permitting public scrutiny. 

Until 1980 the budgetary procedures involved a complex account- 
ing system with several budgets and special funds. Budget formats 
took a long time to standardize, and the fiscal year was altered sever- 
al times. In July 1980, budgetary procedures were simplified and 
the fiscal year was fixed between July 1 and June 30, instead of 
the previously used calendar year. 

The new budget still contained a number of special-purpose 
funds, such as subsidies and support for the armed forces, which 
were outside the main budget. Public sector companies and authori- 
ties, such as that for the Suez Canal, had their separate budgets, 
although they were connected to the state budget through trans- 
fers to and from the latter. The primary agencies handling the bud- 
get were the Ministry of Finance and the National Investment Bank, 


Egypt: A Country Study 

founded in 1980. The ministry prepared the budgets and managed 
all transactions, except new investments, which were the respon- 
sibility of the investment bank. 

The state budget included those of the central and local govern- 
ments. The central government, however, exercised great control 
over the budget, as was apparent from the preponderance of its 
revenues and expenditures relative to those of the local government 
(see table 4, Appendix). Examination of the budget revealed a num- 
ber of characteristics and trends. State revenues as a proportion 
of GDP tended to remain steady, staying around one- third. They 
consisted primarily of tax receipts. The largest revenue items were 
business, consumption, and import taxes (the latter two categories 
were also called indirect taxes). Personal and property taxes were 
minuscule by comparison. An IMF international tax comparison 
index ranked Egypt in 1978-80 as eleventh among forty-four de- 
veloping countries in the ability to collect taxes. 

In addition to generating revenues, taxes could be a vital instru- 
ment in redistributing income. The impact of taxes on income dis- 
tribution was litde studied in Egypt. Income taxes were progressive, 
but because collection was not systematic, it was difficult to judge 
their actual impact. Also, little was known about the equity effect 
of indirect taxes, which made up a large part of overall revenues. 
These taxes were usually regressive, but subsidies may have com- 
pensated for some of the unfavorable impact. 

Another aspect of the revenues was the instability of foreign ex- 
change income. For example, the contribution of petroleum — the 
major source of foreign currency in the state budget apart from 
foreign aid — dropped (at current prices) from nearly £E1.07 bil- 
lion in 1983 to £E781 million in 1988. Translated into real prices, 
the drop would be more dramatic. Revenues from the import tax 
also were tied to the volume of foreign exchange, especially to that 
of remittances. Because this volume was not really known, however, 
the effect of its fluctuations could not be meaningfully estimated 
(see Remittances, this ch.). 

Entries for expenditures illustrated the results of the steps taken 
by the Mubarak government to trim spending. Wages, the predomi- 
nant expenditure item, were nearly halved as a percentage of GDP 
in the period from 1979 to 1988. While this was positive for the 
state budget, it could also mean that the income of public employees 
declined relative to overall per capita income. The subsidy bill also 
fell from the levels of the 1970s and early 1980s. These two fac- 
tors, among others, led to the decline of expenditures and gross 
deficit as a proportion of GDP. Expenditures had risen from 
50 percent of GDP in 1979 to 70 percent in 1983, then dropped 


The Economy 

to 49 percent in 1988. Trends similar to those for expenditures also 
characterized the budget deficit. 

Banking, Credit, and Inflation 

Like other economic sectors, banking fell under government con- 
trol during the Nasser era. Banks were nationalized and amalga- 
mated in 1963 into four big commercial banks: the National Bank 
of Egypt, the Bank of Alexandria, Bank Misr, and the Bank of 
Cairo. They were owned and regulated by the Central Bank. 
Numerous special-purpose banks were also created, including those 
for industrial and agricultural credit, mortgages, and social secu- 
rity funds. They held about 9 percent of total assets of the banking 

When Law Number 43 (of 1974) for Arab and Foreign Capital 
Investment and Free Zones was extended to the domestic private 
sector, banking boomed and its structure was altered. The num- 
ber of banks grew between 1974 and 1988 from 8 to more than 
100. Furthermore, banking absorbed a big chunk of investment 
outlays. In 1983, for example, 54 percent of the £E2. 1 billion cap- 
ital investment went into banking and associated financial activi- 
ties. The banking sector thrived because the Central Bank allowed 
a highly profitable mark-up of 6 percent over fund costs of banks, 
pushing banking investment returns to about 70 percent, proba- 
bly a higher rate of return than in any other sector. The most im- 
portant change in the banking structure was the emergence of three 
types of establishments: private, joint venture, and, after 1984, Is- 
lamic investment companies. Nevertheless, the big four banks, part- 
ly because they had branches throughout the country, continued 
to handle about 60 to 70 percent of total assets. 

Banks were highly liquid throughout the 1980s. Time and for- 
eign currency deposits increased from nearly £E3.6 billion to nearly 
£E34 billion between 1980 and 1988, or at an annual rate of 32.4 
percent (see table 5, Appendix). Part of the increase came from 
the revaluation of foreign currency deposits against the depreciat- 
ing pound (see Exchange Rates, this ch.). The largest shares of 
the increase were those of time deposits and foreign currency. It 
was difficult to determine the savings rate, because the Central Bank 
did not separate time deposits from foreign currency. Some esti- 
mates showed that Egypt had a savings rate of 17 percent of GNP, 
one of the highest in the world. This was mostly private savings; 
public savings fell considerably in the 1970s and 1980s because of 
military expenditures, the high cost of subsidies, and the growth 
of foreign debt. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

The generally good performance of the banking sector was marred 
by corruption, embezzlement, smuggling of hard currency abroad, 
and a stormy confrontation between the government and the Is- 
lamic investment companies. In one case in 1984, a black marketer 
was able, through bribery, to obtain loans worth US$3 billion and 
then to smuggle the funds abroad. It was estimated that in 1981 
about 54 percent of hard currency deposits in private banks were 
placed with overseas branches or corresponding banks. The govern- 
ment believed there were £E40 to £E70 billion abroad, which either 
had flowed out of, or never flowed into, the country (see Remit- 
tances, this ch.). 

Islamic investment companies came into being in 1984 and were 
dominated by four or five major enterprises. They grew spectacu- 
larly and accumulated deposits totaling billions of dollars. Their 
practices differed from those of other banks in that they offered de- 
positors risky open-ended mutual fund certificates instead of in- 
terest, which Islamic law forbade as usury. Initially, they were able 
to offer depositors returns of 20 percent. The government, and 
many observers, accused them of being able to do so through black- 
market money trading and by luring depositors with "pyramid" 
schemes, such as the establishment of fictitious corporations, by 
which dividends were paid from old investments. They were also 
charged with smuggling large sums of hard currency abroad and 
with defrauding many depositors. The government issued new regu- 
lations in 1988 that required the companies to reconstitute them- 
selves as stockholding enterprises, issue share certificates, and place 
deposits under official scrutiny. Whether the companies would sub- 
mit to such regulations remained unclear. It was feared that if they 
refused and liquidated themselves instead, they could cause havoc 
in the financial market. 

The increase in bank liquidity was reflected in the growth of 
credit. Banks were permitted to lend only 60 percent to 65 percent 
of the value of their deposits, except to the government, which could 
borrow at will. The value of loans grew steadily in the 1980s, in- 
creasing as much as 20.7 percent per year. Part of the increase 
resulted from the depreciation of the pound. The highest loans were 
consistently to the government, which borrowed heavily to finance 
its chronic deficit. Government borrowing represented from 40 per- 
cent to 60 percent of the total. Public sector enterprises, although 
they received direct funds from the government budget, were the 
second-largest borrower until the mid-1980s. 

After 1985 the private sector replaced the public sector as the 
second largest debtor after the government. By the second half of 
the 1980s, private borrowers were becoming less and less able to 


The Economy 

honor their obligations. As a result, banks, especially some foreign 
and joint venture banks that were not allowed to deal in local cur- 
rency, faced a depressed business atmosphere. 

Nominal interest rates remained essentially the same through 
most of the 1980s. They ranged from 5 to 13 percent for deposits 
and 11 to 17 percent for loans. That real interest rates were con- 
sistently negative because of higher inflation rates apparently did 
not lead to excessive borrowing by the public sector. In spite of 
IMF insistence on raising interest rates, the government was reluc- 
tant to increase them by more than 1 percent to 2 percent, for fear 
of slowing economic growth. 

The increase in the money supply probably also contributed to 
the rise in inflation levels. Total money supply increased between 
1980 and 1988 at an annual rate of 23 percent. Major sources of 
this increase were government borrowing, revaluation of foreign 
currency holdings, and private- sector borrowing. Double-digit in- 
flation marked the economy in the 1980s. The consumer price in- 
dex rose by 336 percent between 1980 and 1988, or at an annual 
rate of 16 percent, about 5 to 6 percentage points higher than the 
rate in the 1970s. Since 1987, annual inflation rates have risen 
between 20 percent and 30 percent. Economists spoke of "stagfla- 
tion," the combination of low growth and high inflation, as charac- 
terizing the Egyptian economy in the second half of the 1980s. 


Creating jobs for a rapidly growing population has been one of 
the most difficult tasks that faced successive Egyptian governments. 
After 1976 the population grew at an annual rate of 2.9 percent. 
Reliable information on the occupational structure was scarce, part- 
ly because of the fast pace at which this structure changed, of the 
rural-urban migration, and of the dearth of in-depth studies. 


Official estimates differed on employment figures. According to 
the Ministry of Planning, employment in the formal sector increased 
at the rate of 2.6 percent per year between 1976 and 1986 (the census 
years). The number of workers in agriculture stayed steady, at 
around 4.2 to 4.5 million, during the same period. Agricultural 
workers represented 44 percent and 37 percent of total employ- 
ment at the beginning and end of the period, respectively, indicating 
a decline in agriculture's share. The preceding data may exagger- 
ate the participation of labor in agriculture, which in the 1980s be- 
came only a part-time occupation for many workers as employment 
patterns in the countryside began to resemble those of some urban 


Egypt: A Country Study 

areas. Overall, the 1986 census showed that employment in rural 
areas was about 6.19 million, compared with 5.48 million in ur- 
ban areas. 

In 1976 and 1986, industry absorbed about 13 percent and 16 
percent, respectively, of total employment. The annual growth rate 
of employment in the sector was 4.5 percent over the same period. 
The number of people employed over the same period fell substan- 
tially in construction and rose steadily in the services, which ab- 
sorbed about 31 percent of the labor force in 1986. Employment 
in trade grew significantly following the initiation of Sadat's open- 
door policy and the import boom after 1974, and leveled off sub- 
sequently (see table 6, Appendix). 

The distribution of employment also shifted along gender lines. 
Female participation in the labor force grew steadily, although slow- 
ly. One estimate gave the female share of total employment as 8 
percent and 9.5 percent in 1976 and 1988, respectively, representing 
a growth rate of 4.1 percent annually (see also Family and Kin- 
ship, ch. 2). 

The breakdown of public versus private employment was difficult 
to ascertain because official statistics did not distinguish between 
the two. Employment in the private sector in 1977 was more than 
double (6.6 million to 3.1 million) that in the public sector and 
was concentrated in agriculture and the services. It has been esti- 
mated that the increase in private employment accounted for more 
than 65 percent of overall employment growth between 1973 and 
1983, suggesting that the ratio of private to public employment 
increased. Considering that both overall employment and govern- 
ment employment stagnated after 1983, the ratio also probably re- 
mained unaltered thereafter (for employment of Egyptians abroad, 
see Remittances, this ch.). 

Information on employment in the late 1980s in the informal 
sector, which included small-scale manufacturing, handicrafts, per- 
sonal services, retailing, and other ill-defined activities, was not 
available. Activities of the sector were not registered, and par- 
ticipants changed their jobs frequently. Most of those considered 
unemployed probably engaged in one or another of these activi- 
ties; hence, the size of the informal sector was most likely to expand 
as unemployment increased at the close of the decade. Mobility 
between the informal and the formal sectors was effectively nonex- 
istent; those who joined the informal sector overwhelmingly re- 
mained there. 

Employment grew at a slower rate than did the population and 
the labor force, resulting in a worsening unemployment situation. 
According to official accounts, the rate of unemployment increased 



Egypt: A Country Study 

from 2.8 percent in the period from 1975 to 1977 to about 12 per- 
cent in 1986. The figures probably understated the problem, 
because other informed sources put the rates at 20 percent to 25 
percent in 1987 and 1988. Analysts adduced a multitude of rea- 
sons for the rapid increase in unemployment, including high popu- 
lation and low economic growth rates, inability of industry to absorb 
larger numbers of workers, high capital intensity in new industrial 
enterprises, the focus of the 1980s Five- Year Plan on the infra- 
structure, and the return of Egyptians formerly working abroad. 

In addition to unemployment, economists pointed to underem- 
ployment, or disguised unemployment. There was a consensus that 
underemployment was rampant in the government bureaucracy, 
because of overstaffing and low remuneration. In 1990 the govern- 
ment was considering paying private- sector employers a two-year 
salary for every new graduate they hired. It viewed the measure 
as a means of checking the expansion of the bureaucracy and 
ameliorating the unemployment problem. 

Although Egypt had a high percentage of high-school and col- 
lege graduates, the country continued to face shortages in skilled 
labor. Probably 35 percent of civil servants and 60 percent of per- 
sons in public-sector enterprises were unskilled or illiterate. The 
lack of skilled labor was blamed on, among other things, the cul- 
tural bias against manual work, the theoretical nature of courses 
in most higher education institutions, and the emigration of skilled 
personnel abroad, where they received higher wages. There were 
complaints that the implementation of development plans was ham- 
pered by the insufficient supply of skilled labor. 


The wage structure did not exhibit major shifts, except perhaps 
between private and public employment. The real average wage 
per worker throughout the economy probably increased from £E257 
in 1977 to £E 1,2 10 in 1986, or at the rate of 18.8 percent per year. 
In the same period, the consumer price index rose at an annual 
rate of about 15 percent. Not all sectors, however, exhibited in- 
creases similar to the overall average. 

The highest wages in 1986 were recorded in the oil industry and 
finance and insurance. Oil industry workers received 4.8 times the 
overall average wage, and workers in finance and insurance, 2.8 
times. Agricultural wages remained the lowest, about 42 percent 
of the overall average, similar to their 1977 ratio. Unofficial studies, 
however, indicated that agricultural workers' wages did not exceed 
20 percent to 29 percent of the overall average. The industrial and 


The Economy 

mining wage remained steady at about 1.3 times the overall aver- 
age in 1986. 

Average annual pay in the private sector was said to be three 
times that in the government. Government employees, who lived 
on fixed incomes and had been given the sobriquet "the new poor," 
probably suffered the most from inflation, in spite of ad hoc cost- 
of-living raises, including an 18 percent increment in the FY 1987 
budget to offset the impact of the May 1987 austerity program. 
The government had a limited ability to raise salaries significantly, 
because wages constituted the largest item of its budget (see Pub- 
lic Finance, this ch.). Civil service remuneration was based on a 
grade system that left little room for merit allowances. Public- sector 
enterprises were given more leeway with respect to wage deter- 
mination, although most raises were intended to compensate for cost- 
of-living increments. Workers in public- sector enterprises, especially 
in industry, were unionized and were able to bargain collectively. 
There was little unionization among private- sector employees. 

Wages alone did not tell the whole story of workers' compensa- 
tion. The Nasser regime introduced a set of fringe benefits, includ- 
ing pension, health insurance, and paid holidays that had been 
practically nonexistent before. Their costs as a whole in organized 
urban industry amounted to 20 percent of the wages in FY 1969. 
No such estimates were available for the 1980s. 


Farming in Egypt was confined to less than 3 percent of the total 
land area, because the country falls within arid and hyper-arid 
zones. About 90 percent of the agricultural area was concentrated 
in the Delta, and the rest fell within a narrow ribbon along the 
Nile between Aswan and Cairo (Upper Egypt) and a strip along 
the Mediterranean. The arable land was estimated by the United 
Nations Food and Agriculture Organization as being about 6.02 
million feddans (1 feddan = 1.038 acres = .42 hectare) in 1987. This 
was the equivalent of about 0.12 feddan per capita, one of the lowest 
in the world, and less than Bangladesh's 0.19. The warm weather, 
plentiful water, and exceptionally fertile soil, however, enabled Egyp- 
tian farmers to practice double and multiple cropping, which effec- 
tively doubled the arable area (see table 7, Appendix). Nevertheless, 
the relative scarcity of arable land, coupled with, among other things, 
high population growth, made Egypt depend on external sources 
for about half of its food supply in the late 1980s. 

In spite of Egypt's dependence on foreign food supplies and 
agriculture's generally poor performance over the 1980s, agriculture 


Egypt: A Country Study 

remained a key sector of the Egyptian economy and its future de- 
velopment. In 1988 it contributed more than 20 percent of GDP 
and about 9 percent of exports and employed more than 4 million 
workers, or about one-third of total employment. Its significance 
would be even more pronounced if account were taken of the in- 
dustries from which it purchased, such as fertilizers and machinery, 
and those to which it sold, such as food processing and textiles. 

Agricultural development responded to the ecology, state policy, 
technology, and shifts in the international political economy. In 
the early nineteenth century under Muhammad Ali, Egypt intro- 
duced long-staple cotton, which in 1990 remained a prized com- 
modity on the world market, and initiated the long-term process 
of upgrading the irrigation system. The ecological conditions of 
the Nile Valley proved eminently suitable for cotton cultivation. 
Helped by a world cotton shortage arising from the American Civil 
War in the 1860s, Egyptian agriculture expanded rapidly. By the 
early 1900s, the situation had changed: additions to new arable 
land were slow and increasingly costly as the quality of land to be 
added became poorer, expansion of irrigation was not coupled with 
expanded drainage, and the intensive cultivation of cotton exhausted 
the soil and reduced its fertility. During the first half of the twen- 
tieth century, agricultural growth may have averaged less than 1 
percent a year. 

In addition to agriculture's declining growth rate, a social crisis 
ensued in the countryside, manifested in great inequalities and 
sporadic peasant rebellions. Reforming the conditions of agricul- 
ture fell after 1952 to the Free Officers. The new regime sought 
to carry out the task through extensive intervention in the sector 
to the point where the state was described as the silent partner; 
examination of state policy vis-a-vis agriculture is, therefore, a 
prerequisite for understanding the evolution of the sector. The state 
implemented land-reform programs, extended and altered the ir- 
rigation system, reclaimed new land, and regulated input and out- 
put prices as well as land use. Carrying out agricultural controls 
was entrusted to the rural cooperatives. The controls continued 
and were modified under Sadat and were gradually being relaxed 
under Mubarak. The results of state intervention were often mixed, 
both economically and socially. 

The Food Gap 

In 1960 Egypt was self-sufficient in almost all basic food com- 
modities, with the exception of wheat, of which the country had 
a self-sufficiency ratio (domestic production in relation to consump- 
tion) of 70 percent. The self-sufficiency ratio declined dramatically 


Traditional pottery making near a site visited by tourists 

Courtesy Susan Becker 

for most products during the 1970s and 1980s, and economists be- 
gan to speak of a serious food gap in Egypt (see table 8, Appen- 
dix). Food security, in the sense of adequate production and 
provision of food to consumers at relatively low prices, also be- 
came a linchpin of agricultural and development policies. 

Food gap data were difficult to ascertain, especially because 
public-sector food imports often bypassed customs. By the end of 
the 1980s, the self-sufficiency ratio was only around 20 percent for 
wheat, lentils, and edible oil. The major basic staple for which Egypt 
did not rely on external supply sources was rice. The country also 
produced most of the poultry and eggs it consumed. On the whole, 
it imported more than one-half of the food consumed, and food 
imports made up about one-quarter of total imports. Meanwhile, 
agricultural exports, mainly cotton, were declining, and Egypt was 
transformed from a net agricultural exporter to a net importer (see 
Foreign Trade, this ch.). Most worrisome, both financially and 
politically, was the wheat gap: wheat was the basic staple of the 
Egyptian diet. Some of the external wheat supply came in the form 
of aid, especially from the United States, which donated about 10 
percent to 20 percent of wheat consumed. But food aid was not 
a secure source because of the volatility of politics, and, in any case, 
the share of food aid dropped as the country's consumption grew. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Moreover, food subsidies to consumers imposed severe strains 
on the budget deficit. The debt-ridden government faced difficul- 
ties finding creditors to finance food imports, and rising world food 
commodity prices may have added as much as US$600 million to 
wheat imports alone in 1989. Food shortages were reported in 1988 
and 1989, including such basic items as tea, sugar, and oil. 

The drop in food self-sufficiency was attributed, on the demand 
side, to the rising demand caused by high rates of population 
growth, the rapid rise of incomes in the 1970s, and subsidized prices, 
and, on the supply side, to the slow growth of agricultural yields. 
Egyptians consumed annually less than 110 kilograms per capita 
of wheat in 1960. In the 1980s, the wheat supply was enough to 
provide 175 to 200 kilograms per capita, compared with a world 
average of less than 60 to 75 kilograms per capita. Some of this went 
to chicken and cattle feed because the low prices made it economi- 
cal for farmers and households to substitute wheat for other fodder. 

The silver lining of this cloudy picture was the marked improve- 
ment in the average Egyptian diet. Daily food consumption in- 
creased from 2,307 calories per capita in the period 1961 to 1963, 
to 3,313 calories per capita from 1984 to 1986, and from 62.5 grams 
per capita of protein to 8 1 . 1 grams per capita over the same peri- 
od. These averages put the Egyptian diet directly below that of 
developed countries. But not all segments of the population benefit- 
ed to the same extent. For example, a sample survey of 6,300 ur- 
ban and rural families in 1981 found that the daily per capita caloric 
intake was 1,500 for the lowest 17 percent and more than 3,500 
for the highest 18 percent; the distribution of protein intake was 
even more skewed. A 1986 study done for the United Nations In- 
ternational Labour Organisation recommended that, to avoid fur- 
ther deterioration of the diet of the poor, the prices of basic staples 
should not be raised. 

Land Ownership and Reform 

On the eve of the 1952 Revolution, ownership of land was heavily 
concentrated in a few hands, more so than in the twenty preced- 
ing years. About 0.1 percent of owners possessed one-fifth of the 
land and 0.4 percent controlled one- third, in contrast to the 95 per- 
cent of small owners with only 35 percent of the land. In addition, 
44 percent of all rural inhabitants were landless. Egypt as a whole 
was experiencing political instability, which was manifested in the 
countryside in the growing insecurity of property and in peasant 
resistance and demand for land. Although several land reform bills 
were presented to the Egyptian parliament, for a variety of rea- 
sons none passed. 


The Economy 

The task of mending conditions in the countryside thus passed 
to the new regime, which in 1952 initiated a phased land reform 
program that targeted the property of the upper class of landown- 
ers, dubbed "feudalists" by the government, for distribution. The 
1952 land reform law limited individual ownerships to 200 feddans. 
The beneficiaries were to be tenants, estate workers, and the poorest 
villagers. The law also fixed rents, set tenancy duration at a mini- 
mum of three years, and established a minimum wage. 

The 1952 law was followed by others in 1961 and 1969 that aimed 
at deepening the reform and further reducing the maximum size 
of landownership. The ceiling was reduced to \00 feddans in 1961 
and to 50 in 1969. The land reform was implemented with a 
reasonable measure of success, perhaps because its aim was some- 
what modest. More than 700,000 feddans were distributed (864,500 
feddans according to official statistics), or about 12 percent to 14 
percent of the cultivated area, and more than 341,000 families, 
primarily tenants who presumably were more skillful at farming 
than other workers, received land. The pyramid of landownership 
was truncated at the top and widened at the base: whereas large 
holdings were not entirely eliminated, the share of those owning 
fifty feddans or more dropped to 15 percent, and 95 percent of owners 
came to control 52 percent of the land instead of the 35 percent 
they had owned before the reform. 

Official accounts indicated that this general picture remained 
relatively stable in 1984, with a slight reduction in the area owned 
by the upper stratum of those with fifty or more feddans. However, 
the number of small owners, those with fewer than five feddans, 
increased to nearly 3.29 million in 1984 from 2.92 million in 1961 , 
while the area they owned dropped from 3.17 million feddans to 
2.9 million feddans. This suggested that land fragmentation wors- 
ened, as a result of the continual division of land among heirs in 
accordance with Islamic inheritance laws. Land reform laws in 
Egypt never had a land consolidation component as they did, for 
example, in Jordan. The number of landless families also rose be- 
cause of population growth. Students of agrarian Egypt had not 
resolved satisfactorily whether the middle strata, those who owned 
between eleven and fifty feddans, shrank after the reform. 

Land tenure, however, rather than landownership reflected how 
land was actually operated in Egypt. Land was either operated by 
the owner with family and/or hired labor, rented for cash, or 
sharecropped. The system was complex in that the same person 
might be engaged in several arrangements at the same time. The 
operational unit was called the hiyazah (holding); cooperatives (see 
below) kept records of such holdings in allocating government crop 


Egypt: A Country Study 

quotas and amounts of subsidized inputs. The tendency was for 
the number of holdings to be smaller than that of ownerships, in- 
dicating that a measure of consolidation took place in practice. 
Nevertheless, the average size of a holding was probably less than 
two feddans by the end of the 1970s; no figures were available sub- 

The rapid changes that occurred in Egypt after 1975 and the 
increasing mechanization and intensification of agriculture led some 
scholars to conclude that landownership might no longer be the 
sole instrument of land control or wealth. Land leasing and owner- 
ship of other assets, such as tractors, were also significant factors. 

To implement its agricultural policy, the government at the outset 
established agricultural cooperatives in rural areas. Initially, only 
land recipients were obligated to join; by 1962 all farmers were 
required to do so. The cooperatives performed several functions. 
They consolidated resources through distribution of inputs; pre- 
served private incentives, such as profits; determined responsibility 
for planting government quotas of particular crops, such as cotton; 
and bought the government share of procurement crops at prices 
fixed by the government. The cooperatives, on the one hand, en- 
hanced agricultural growth by encouraging farmers to use fertiliz- 
ers and other inputs and to adopt the three-year crop rotation that 
the Ministry of Agriculture considered ecologically superior to the 
traditional, two-year rotation (see Cropping Patterns, Production, 
and Yield, this ch.). On the other hand, the cooperatives came un- 
der the control of the well-to-do farmers. There was also evidence 
of widespread corruption among those who managed cooperatives. 
Their role was downgraded under Sadat, and more prominence 
was given to the Principal Bank for Development and Credit. The 
role of the cooperatives diminished further in the 1980s as the 
government relaxed its controls over agriculture. 

Agriculture grew at respectable rates after the land reform and 
the universalization of cooperatives. It was difficult, however, to 
tell how much of the credit should go to these two factors and how 
much to investments in irrigation and other inputs. 

Land Reclamation and Loss 

The quest to bring new land under cultivation has been a cor- 
nerstone of Egyptian agricultural policy since the 1950s. Systematic 
land reclamation efforts, mostly by foreigners, had begun in 1902 
with the completion of the Aswan Dam. The government joined 
in reclamation in the 1930s, but did not entirely take over the ac- 
tivity until the First Five- Year Plan (1960-65). According to offi- 
cial figures, the total area reclaimed amounted to nearly 1 .92 million 


The Economy 

feddans between 1952 and 1987, of which 0.82 million feddans were 
reclaimed between 1952 and 1968. Reclamation activity slowed 
from 1966 to 1976, then picked up again. The Second Five-Year 
Plan (FY 1987-91) projected agricultural land to be expanded by 
627,000 feddans, mostly in the Delta and to the east and west of 
it, and in Sinai. Total reclaimable land by the year 2002 was esti- 
mated at 2.8 million feddans; less than 3 percent of this was first- 
class land, 20 percent was second class, an insignificant percent 
was third class, and more than 33 percent was fourth and fifth class. 
Public-sector companies were expected to reclaim about 427,000 
feddans, and private companies the rest. Two major schemes were 
under way in early 1990: one west of the Delta that was expected 
to yield 434,000 feddans by 1993, and the second in northern Sinai 
that would draw water from the Nile through a tunnel under the 
Suez Canal. 

Bringing new land under cultivation required heavy investment. 
Reclamation outlays in most years represented the second largest 
agricultural investment after irrigation. In the first half of the 
mid-1980s, reclamation cost about £E600 million, or about 30 per- 
cent of public investments in agriculture, and the figure was expec- 
ted to rise to 35 percent in the Second Five-Year Plan (FY 1987-91). 
The cost per feddan rose continually because reclamation began with 
better quality soil and because of the rising costs of labor and energy 
required for pumping the water. The cost was estimated to reach 
£E2,500 to £E5,000 per feddan for projects in the 1990s. 

Land reclamation was time-consuming and involved planning, 
irrigation, planting, building new settlements, and establishing agro- 
industries. The process often encountered natural, financial, tech- 
nical, and managerial difficulties. For example, because the soil 
was poor, fertilizers leached; building an adequate soil structure 
would require planting a crop such as alfalfa that fixed nitrogen. 
This process was unduly time-consuming for many farmers, who 
opted instead to truck soil from the old lands, which often was in- 
fested with pests. As a result of these problems, only one-third of 
the land reclaimed by 1980 was making a profit. 

The difficulties led foreign donors in the 1970s to question the 
wisdom of the undertaking, and most of them refrained from par- 
ticipating. Egyptians, however, were not deterred and challenged 
the economic criteria and calculation methods by which donors 
judged the results. They also argued that land reclamation had ex- 
ternal benefits, such as generating employment (the share of labor 
costs exceeded one-half of the total), relief of crowded areas, and 
defense (a presence in the Sinai Peninsula) that simple economic 
cost-benefit analysis did not reflect. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

The main beneficiaries of land reclamation in the 1960s were 
small peasants; in the 1970s principal beneficiaries were army per- 
sonnel, families of soldiers killed in the October 1973 War, and 
graduates of technical schools. Of more than 1.2 million feddans 
reclaimed between 1952 and 1982, small peasants probably obtained 
more than 400,000 feddans, graduates received more than 300,000 
feddans, and the remainder was unaccounted for. Reclaimed areas 
at first were run as state farms; the experiment failed, however, 
and the areas were given into private hands. Public companies acted 
as the management, providing credit and inputs, determining crop 
patterns, and obtaining the government's crop quotas. 

While land was being added to cultivation, other land was be- 
ing lost to desertification and urban and infrastructural expansion. 
Desertification was caused by lack of drainage and the concomi- 
tant soil salinization and water clogging. Other causes were sand 
movement, intensive cultivation, removal of topsoil in the Delta 
for brick making, and lack of effective conservation measures (see 
Technology, this ch.). Information on soil degradation and deser- 
tification was sketchy. One estimate put the decrease of cropland 
at 6.6 percent annually between 1964 and 1985; another estimat- 
ed the annual decrease at 8 percent. Of the reclaimed areas, about 
40 percent probably reverted to desert conditions. In addition, other 
areas were probably losing soil nutrients because of the decreased 
use of organic fertilizers, the lack of annual alluvial deposits fol- 
lowing the construction of the Aswan High Dam, and inadequate 
compensation for nutrients removed from the soil by intensive cul- 

Pricing Policy 

World War II led to shortages of food supplies as a result of in- 
creased demand by Allied troops. The government enforced a system 
of grain deliveries, a measure that was tantamount to nationaliz- 
ing the grain trade. It also compelled farmers to increase the areas 
devoted to grains, and it subsidized fertilizers to appease small farm- 
ers. The revolutionary regime both deepened and broadened these 
policy measures in accordance with its objective of industrializing 
the country. The new policy sought to extract a surplus from agricul- 
ture to finance industry, an approach that was then favored by 
economists in both East and West, and to ensure food supply at 
relatively low prices to keep industrial wages down. 

Specifically, the policy involved the allotment of areas for par- 
ticular crops, compulsory sales by farmers to the government of 
a fraction of the output at fixed prices, and, at the same time, a sub- 
sidy on agricultural inputs and on basic food staples for consumers. 


The Economy 

Farmers referred to controlled crops as "government crops." The 
policy varied by crop type and over time to serve changing eco- 
nomic, political, and social objectives. The level of control over 
crops ranged from total control, at least in theory, to total absence 
of control. The pricing system directly affected the area and out- 
put of controlled crops, including cotton, clover, rice, wheat, and 
sugarcane. Indirectly, however, pricing had a chain reaction on 
all crops. 

The impact of the pricing system was difficult to evaluate be- 
cause of the multiplicity of other factors — such as the ecology, crop 
rotation, land distribution, wages, and trade and other macroeco- 
nomic policies — that shaped agricultural operations. A 1989 study 
by the World Bank (see Glossary) concluded that there was virtu- 
ally no connection between subsidized consumer prices and 
producer prices — prices paid to farmers; output was affected by 
the latter but not by the former. 

The relative impact on the various strata of the population and 
on rural as opposed to urban dwellers changed over time. In the 
1960s, policies were generally biased toward urban consumers: the 
low prices for their staples were made possible by the low prices 
that were paid to farmers. In other words, the countryside, not 
the government, subsidized the city. After 1974 the government, 
wishing to keep the social peace and not jeopardize the newly 
promulgated infitah, raised producer prices and input subsidies to 
disgruntled farmers and simultaneously underwrote the bill for the 
consumer price subsidy. Overall, the pricing policy seemed to have 
removed the bias against the rural regions. 

In the 1980s, the government gradually dismantled procurement 
quotas for practically all crops. The two major exceptions were cot- 
ton and rice. The government still bought all cotton and one-half 
of the rice output as it did in the 1960s. Cotton remained on the 
quota system because it was an important source of foreign cur- 
rency; the reason for rice exemption was less clear. Furthermore, 
by the end of the 1980s, the state offered prices for wheat higher 
than world market prices to encourage expansion of the wheat area. 
On the distribution side, the government gradually raised the prices 
of all subsidized food items, including sugar, rice, and cooking oil, 
and exempted wheat only. The policy changes in the 1980s proba- 
bly favored rural over urban areas. 

Within the countryside itself, the impact probably differed ac- 
cording to farm size, because of cropping pattern differences. Data 
on the topic were extremely sketchy and contradictory. It would 
seem that the upper stratum owning more than ten feddans was 
affected proportionally less than the lowest segment — those owning 


Egypt: A Country Study 

less than one feddan — because its members were able to grow more 
of the uncontrolled crops, such as fruit trees, and to bend the rules 
more. The raising of food prices probably had a more adverse im- 
pact on the poorer segments of the population, irrespective of where 
they lived, because they spent larger proportions of their incomes 
on food. 

Cropping Patterns, Production, and Yield 

Egyptian farmers grew a rich variety of crops, including grains, 
cotton, barsim (clover), legumes, fruits, and vegetables, thanks to 
the warm climate, plentiful water along the Nile, and exceptional- 
ly fertile soil. The country essentially has two seasons, summer and 
winter; spring and fall are quite short. The climatic differences 
between north and south have some impact on the geographical 
distribution of crops. For example, humidity in the Delta suits long- 
staple cotton. The drier, hotter climate of the south favors the plant- 
ing of sugarcane, onions, and lentils. Variations in climate are not 
great, however, and major crops were grown in most of the cli- 
matic zones. 

The single most important change in the cropping pattern in 
Egypt's modern history was the introduction of cotton during the 
reign of Muhammad Ali, because it led to the transformation of 
irrigation methods. Cotton requires a good deal of water in sum- 
mer when the Nile water is low, and it must be harvested before 
the flood season. This necessitated the regulation of the Nile flow 
and brought about a shift from basin (flood) to perennial (rough- 
ly, on demand) irrigation (see Technology, this ch.). 

Perennial irrigation not only made cotton growing possible, it 
also permitted double and even triple cropping on most of the ara- 
ble land. Furthermore, it enabled farmers to switch the crop rota- 
tion from a three- to a two-year cycle. The original three-year cycle 
included clover and cotton in the first year, beans and fallow in 
the second, and wheat or barley and corn in the third. The two- 
year rotation consisted of clover or fallow followed by cotton, and 
the second year, crops of wheat or barley and beans followed by 
clover and corn. By 1890 about 40 percent of the land was put on 
a two-year rotation. The biennial rotation was believed to be harsh 
on the land, and the government tried to eliminate it under Nas- 
ser; farmers resorted to both rotations flexibly. 

Crop areas were regulated by the government according to 
manifold economic, technical, and social criteria. Comprehensive 
land use planning began only in 1966, and requirements were 
relaxed in 1974. But farmers responded to other imperatives as well, 
and the area occupied by various crops changed over time. 


The Economy 

The major shift since 1952 was the significant reduction of the 
cotton area and the parallel increase in that of clover, horticulture, 
and rice. Originally, the government put a maximum limit on the 
cotton area to avoid excess production and lower prices on the world 
market; the Egyptian supply of long- staple cotton affected world 
prices because of its large share. As the cotton area shrank, however, 
the government began to set minimum limits, because cotton was 
needed in order to obtain foreign exchange. Cheap cotton has rep- 
resented an important source of foreign currency for the govern- 
ment and has enabled it to subsidize consumer clothing. At the 
same time, cotton became less profitable for the farmer than other, 
noncontrolled crops. The cotton area was almost halved between 
1952 and 1987, thanks to the government policy requiring farm- 
ers to sell all their cotton output to the government at fixed prices 
that were kept below world market prices. Cotton profitability was 
further reduced in the late 1970s and the 1980s by rising wages, 
because cotton is one of the most labor intensive major crops. 

Cotton output also declined, but not in the same proportion as 
the decline in land area, because of the rise in yields. Yields in- 
creased over the long term, although they fluctuated annually. Over- 
all, they increased by about 50 percent between 1952 and 1980 but 
stagnated or actually declined in the 1980s. The continuous breeding 
of new varieties and the pest-control program organized by the 
government helped increase the yield. The reduced labor input in 
the 1980s, however, may have caused yields to level off or drop. 

Clover occupied by far the largest area of all crops, increasing 
by about 500,000 feddans between 1952 and 1987 and comprising 
about one-quarter of the cropped area in the latter year. The govern- 
ment policy vis-a-vis clover was diametrically opposite to its cot- 
ton policy. Clover was used as animal feed, and the government 
protected both the crop and meat by tariffs. This protection made 
clover a lucrative crop for many farmers, especially as demand for 
livestock grew during the oil boom. Farmers, especially small farm- 
ers, also had to grow sufficient amounts of clover to feed their draft 
animals. On the one hand, the expansion of animal-displacing 
mechanization could lead to a reduction of the clover area in the 
future. Such an outcome would leave more room for basic staples, 
especially wheat. On the other hand, clover fixes soil nitrogen, and 
a serious reduction in its area could have an adverse impact on 
soil fertility. Clover production increased mainly because of the 
expansion of the land area; little plant breeding was undertaken, and 
yields remained relatively stable. The slight increase may have been 
caused by the additional labor time, water, and fertilizers allocated 


Egypt: A Country Study 

to the crop and by the farmers' delay in planting cotton, which 
followed clover, so as to allow an extra cutting of clover. 

The wheat area remained relatively stable. The stability may 
be explained by the fact that although the crop was partially con- 
trolled, the government procurement price was kept close to the 
domestic free market price. Wheat was also the basic staple; small 
and medium- size farmers retained large proportions of it for sub- 
sistence or animal feed. The straw also served as animal forage 
in the summer. Wheat production increased over the long run, be- 
cause of rising yields. Yields rose steadily, especially between 1980 
and 1987; the annual growth rate increased from 5 to 6 percent 
in the period from 1980 to 1987. The diffusion of high-yielding vari- 
eties (HYVs) encountered many problems, however, including sus- 
ceptibility of the bred varieties to rust and the shortness of their 
straw-producing stem. Despite these difficulties, the diffusion of 
HYVs expanded steadily in the 1980s. The area of HYVs increased 
from about 1,300 feddans in 1978 to more than 128,000 feddans in 

The area planted with corn, which was introduced in Egypt in 
the nineteenth century, remained relatively stable. Corn was con- 
sumed by both humans and animals. It was not a controlled crop; 
the government, moreover, subsidized yellow corn until 1987 when 
it raised the price considerably, effectively cutting the subsidy. The 
rise in production occurred as a result of the increase in yields. 
The yields rose by about 40 percent after the completion of the 
Aswan High Dam in 1964. Perennial irrigation enabled farmers 
to plant corn during May or June instead of July or August. The 
new timing afforded the crop cooler temperatures and escape from 
the summer corn borer. Yields were also bolstered by the applica- 
tion of more water and fertilizers. Plant breeding played virtually 
no role in yield increases until the 1980s, but HYVs probably ac- 
counted for most of the increase in yields in the 1980s. 

Rice, grown in Egypt for 1 ,400 years, saw its area expand sharp- 
ly by about 500,000 feddans promptly after the Aswan High Dam 
was built and has hovered around 1 million feddans since then. Rice 
was an important staple, and about one-third of it was probably 
consumed by small farm households. It was a partially controlled 
crop; the government procured one-half of the output and subsi- 
dized it to consumers, but procurement prices were close to the 
domestic free market price. The consumer subsidy was lowered 
after 1987. Production increased in proportion to yields. Yields ex- 
hibited a steady upward movement as water became more availa- 
ble and fertilizer use increased. Yield increase was also achieved 
by the breeding and diffusion of new varieties. An early maturing 


Sprinkler irrigation used on large farms and newly reclaimed areas 
Greenhouse growing pyrethrum, used for making insecticides, in As Salihiyah 

Courtesy Embassy of Egypt, Washington 


Egypt: A Country Study 

variety derived from Japanese rice was diffused through about 25 
percent of the area in 1984, compared with 2 percent two years 
previously. New varieties were being developed by the end of the 

One of the most significant shifts in land use was the expansion 
of the horticultural area. Egyptian farmers cultivated a wide array 
of fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, 
lettuce, onions, citrus, and mangoes. Vegetables were planted on 
more than 1 million feddans by 1980, and the area has stabilized 
since then. The most prevalent crops were tomatoes and melons, 
which in 1987 occupied more than 400,000 and 1 25,000 feddans, 
respectively. Vegetables were not a controlled crop, and demand 
for them grew rapidly during the oil boom. Domestic demand 
leveled off subsequently, and no significant export outiets had been 
found by 1990. Further expansion would probably depend on es- 
tablishing such markets, not a simple task considering the stiff 
regional competition. Yields rose, but it was difficult to determine 
the sources of overall growth; the combination of more water and 
fertilizers would be a factor. 

The area planted with fruits also expanded steadily and reached 
about 616,000 feddans in 1987. Fruits, like vegetables, were not a 
controlled crop, and demand rose with the rise in incomes after 
1974. Citrus fruits and grapes, the two dominant crops, were plant- 
ed on more than 200,000 and 110,000 feddans, respectively. Over- 
all, agricultural crop production increased at annual rates of 2.6 
percent between 1964 and 1970 and 3.5 percent between 1970 and 
1980, but it stagnated in the 1980s. Yields were relatively high by 
the standards of developing countries. Rice yields, for example, 
were higher than those of Asian countries using modern, capital- 
intensive farming systems, save for that of the Japanese. Wheat 
and cotton yields were among the highest in the world. Agronomists, 
however, believed that these yields could be considerably enhanced, 
given better cultivation practices, management, and pricing policies. 

Cropping patterns and crop yields differed according to farm 
size. The Egyptian farmer grew a variety of crops; there was little 
single cropping in Egypt as there was, for example, in the United 
States or in Asia. It is difficult to describe farming patterns in more 
detail, however, because the scarce information available is incon- 
clusive and sometimes contradictory. A survey of three Delta vil- 
lages in 1984 found that farmers who cultivated one feddan or less 
were more likely to grow cotton than those with holdings greater 
than ten feddans, a conclusion that contradicted findings of an earlier 
study. It also revealed that yield levels of different- sized farms varied 
by crop. For instance, wheat yields were higher on small farms, 


The Economy 

while the opposite was true for rice. The reasons were not clear, 
and the findings contradicted a large body of evidence from other 
countries that showed yields were invariably greater on small farms. 
There was agreement, however, that larger farms produced propor- 
tionally more fruit crops, probably because the high capital invest- 
ment and the long-term commitment required would be prohibitive 
to small farmers, who needed more flexibility. 

In addition to crops, Egypt had a relatively significant stock of 
animals that yielded meat, milk, and power. The country had vir- 
tually no permanent pastureland, and animals were fed clover, corn, 
barley, and wheat, competing with humans for the scarce land 
resources. Livestock populations grew slowly, although steadily, 
after 1952 and stabilized or even declined in some years during 
the 1980s. The growth before the 1980s was stimulated by a 100- 
percent meat protection rate, rising demand, and cheap credit to 
farmers. The stagnation in the 1980s possibly reflected the limited 
availability of feed, as is further indicated in increasing yellow corn 
imports, probably in response to the demand for feed. The num- 
ber of water buffalo, the primary source of milk on farms and of 
draft power before mechanization, almost doubled to 2.5 million 
between 1952 and 1978. The number declined slightly in succeed- 
ing years, then climbed again to the 1978 level in 1986. The cattle 
stock stood at about 1.8 million in the 1980s. The numbers of both 
sheep and camels continued a downward trend. The number of 
sheep fell from close to 2 million in 1937 to fewer than 1.2 million 
in 1986, and the number of camels dropped from 200,000 in 1947 
to 68,000 in 1986. The increasing availability of vehicles was prob- 
ably an important factor in the decline of camel herds, as the beasts 
were used for transport. The number of pigs remained stable at 
15,000; only Egyptian Coptic Christians and Christian foreigners 
ate pork. Poultry became an important industry in the mid-1970s; 
the number of chickens approached 30 million in 1986, and the 
number of eggs approached 4 million. 


Egyptian agriculture was transformed over the last century in 
large measure as a result of technological change. Technological 
changes included the switch from basin to perennial irrigation, 
mechanization, application of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, 
breeding new seed varieties, and, in the 1980s, the beginning of 
the use of drip irrigation and plastic greenhouses. 

At the core of these changes lay the shift from basin to perennial 
irrigation. Basin irrigation depended on the annual Nile flooding, 
usually in August and September. The floodwaters soaked the 


Egypt: A Country Study 

low-lying land, providing moisture for a single crop after they reced- 
ed. The silt borne by the river renewed and enriched the soil. The 
area irrigated by the river's high waters was extended with canals 
and dikes. 

Perennial irrigation was more complex but more rewarding. It 
regulated the Nile flow through the building of canals, barrages, 
dams, and reservoirs, which made irrigation water available through- 
out the year, not just at flood time. In 1990 practically all of Egypt's 
cropped land was under perennial irrigation. Muhammad Ali was 
the first to conceive of perennial irrigation as a way of increasing 
cotton production. He initiated barrage construction at the head 
of the Delta, but the barrages were not completed until the 1860s. 
Meanwhile, temporary canals deeper than the Nile were built, and 
water was lifted by pumps. The British expanded the system after 
their occupation of Egypt in 1882. Under their auspices, the Asyut 
barrages and the Aswan Dam were completed in 1902. Perennial 
irrigation enabled Egyptian farmers to double and even triple crop 
the land. It also allowed them to add biennial crop rotation to the 
traditional triennial rotation. 

Except for a few additions, the system remained unchanged until 
the Aswan High Dam was built in 1964 during Nasser's presidency. 
The dam created Lake Nasser, which extends about 480 kilome- 
ters south behind it, cost about £E850 million, and represented ap- 
proximately one-third of Egypt's gross capital formation in the 
mid-1960s. This control of the Nile waters made possible the recla- 
mation of about 650,000 feddans and brought about 880,000 fed- 
dans under perennial irrigation, in addition to generating a 
considerable portion of Egypt's electrical power (see Energy, this 
ch.). It effected a shift in the cropping pattern, particularly in the 
cases of rice and corn. By making water more available, the sys- 
tem encouraged investment in other inputs and augmented crop 
yields. Many Egyptians were glad to have the dam during the 
prolonged drought that struck the areas where most of the Nile 
originates in the early 1980s and lasted until 1988. 

The Aswan High Dam turned out to be not just an irrigation 
project but also a political project; it became a symbol of Egyptian 
nationalism and of Nasser's era, as well as a legacy of the Cold 
War. The edifice was built with help from the Soviet Union after 
the United States and Britain, in protest against the arms agree- 
ment that Nasser struck with Czechoslovakia in late 1958, rescinded 
an earlier assistance agreement. In response, Nasser nationalized 
the Suez Canal and said the revenues from the canal would be used 
to finance the dam. Because of the political tensions surrounding 
the building of the Aswan High Dam and its irrigation system, 


The Economy 

subsequent criticism of the project has sometimes mixed political 
considerations with technical assessment. 

The structure was not without difficulties. Some problems in- 
volved miscalculations, such as the underestimation of evaporation 
levels from the lake. Other problems were probably unanticipat- 
ed, such as the impact the absence of silt in the canals would have. 
Under basin irrigation, the annual flood deposited large quanti- 
ties of silt that revitalized the soil. The shift to perennial irrigation 
kept the silt in the canals, but because they were cleared regular- 
ly, the silt was added to the soil. After the dam was built, the silt 
was deposited in the lake behind it. The seriousness of the impact 
on the soil and the reasons for it remained controversial. Another 
unforeseen consequence of deposit retention in Lake Nasser was 
the use of topsoil from the Nile Valley to make bricks for construc- 
tion; formerly these had been made of silt deposits. In addition, 
the dam's construction led to the relocation of the Nubians, an oper- 
ation whose social and economic costs were not easy to estimate. 

Whereas the government invested heavily in irrigation in the 
1960s, it neglected irrigation's mirror image, drainage. The failure 
to invest in drainage was believed to have caused tremendous water 
clogging and soil salinization problems that reduced soil fertility 
and led to loss of arable land. More than 70 percent of the land 
was believed to be affected by these problems. Since 1974, however, 
the government with international assistance has earmarked con- 
siderable funds toward drainage in both the Delta and Upper Egypt. 
A major tile drainage scheme was under way in 1990 in coopera- 
tion with the World Bank. In the 1980s First Five- Year Plan, tile 
drainage covered 1.5 million feddans, in addition to 0.65 million 
feddans already tiled by 1983. General drainage covered about 1.7 
mHiion feddans by the end of the plan's period. In other words, from 
50 to 60 percent of the arable land has been provided with drainage 
facilities. The Second Five- Year Plan (FY 1987-91) allocated about 
£E1.5 billion for irrigation and drainage (see table 9, Appendix), 
but the allocation of funds between the two was not specified. 

Although agricultural mechanization accelerated in the 1980s, 
it remained limited. The main agricultural tasks to undergo mech- 
anization were plowing, threshing, and water-pumping. Planting, 
transplanting, weeding, and harvesting were still performed manu- 
ally. Most tractors were privately owned. Large owners, who 
benefited from economies of scale, were more likely to own trac- 
tors. There was a widespread private rental market, however, and 
mechanical plowing was practically universal. The number of water 
pumps, which were introduced in the 1930s, grew rapidly; as in 
the case of tractors, they were concentrated in the hands of larger 


Egypt: A Country Study 

owners. The traditional saqiyah, the waterwheel drawn by water 
buffalo, did not disappear, and small farmers still found its use eco- 
nomical. A survey of three Delta villages in 1984 found that more 
than 60 percent of the less-than-one-/^a« farms adopted pumps. 
The ratio increased with increased farm size, and virtually all farms 
above five feddans used pumps. Similar trends were found in pest 
control. Mechanical threshing was also becoming universal by the 
early 1980s. The government was trying to persuade farmers to 
adopt mechanical rice transplanting by demonstrating its effective- 
ness. Overall, however, mechanization remained confined to tasks 
that were mechanized before the 1980s and was not being adopted 
for new tasks. 

Both the government and international donors encouraged 
mechanization through subsidized credit, assuming that the labor 
market was getting tighter and that mechanization would enhance 
crop yields. There was no doubt that subsidized fuel prices helped 
spread mechanization by reducing its costs. In the early 1980s, the 
labor market was tightening, and labor costs were rising as a propor- 
tion of total costs, from 25 to 33 percent in the early 1970s to be- 
tween 40 and 60 percent in the early 1980s for major crops. The 
rise in labor costs resulted from emigration, alternative job oppor- 
tunities in rural areas, and higher educational levels. But labor was 
not scarce everywhere, as was indicated by the persistence of 
seasonal labor. Some economists in the late 1980s questioned the 
wisdom of pushing the labor-displacing mechanization process in 
light of the rise in unemployment, the narrowing possibilities of 
emigration, and the inability of other sectors to create needed em- 
ployment opportunities (see Employment, this ch.). They pointed 
out that the assumption that mechanization augmented yields was 
not supported by investigations in Egypt or by other studies. 

As part of its reform program, the government wanted to in- 
crease the use of fertilizers and pesticides. To do so, it controlled 
the distribution of fertilizers through the cooperatives and speci- 
fied the amounts allocated by region and crop. Farmers received 
their rations from the cooperatives on credit and were obliged to 
buy the minimum amount set by the government. Subsidies on 
the prices for inputs increased in the 1970s, and prices for these 
items declined in real terms over time. The cost of inputs, includ- 
ing pesticides and seeds, fell from an average of 25 to 33 percent 
in 1972 to around 15 percent for major crops in 1984. As a result, 
fertilizer application increased, growing steadily from about 940,000 
tons in 1960 to 3.7 million tons in 1978 and to 6.3 million tons 
in 1986. In 1986 fertilizer application stood at roughly 0.5 ton per 
feddan of cropped area. Consumption grew sufficiently to support 


The Economy 

the domestic fertilizer industry, and domestic production supplied 
a considerable share of nitrogen fertilizers, which were the primary 
type in use. 

Egyptian agriculture was susceptible to pests, thanks to the year- 
round cultivation and water cover. The government assumed 
responsibility for the task of controlling these pests and sought to 
develop pest-resistant varieties of many crops. The cotton crop was 
the main consumer of pesticides, and the government did the spray- 
ing. In the latter half of the 1980s, the government increasingly 
used aerial spraying. 

In the 1980s Egyptian farmers began to use drip irrigation and 
plastic greenhouses, which had been spreading in other Arab coun- 
tries since the mid-1970s. The extent of their use was minuscule 
by 1990; about 3,000 greenhouses were installed in reclaimed areas. 
Although they could potentially transform Egyptian agriculture, 
the technologies were highly capital-intensive, especially for the 
greenhouses that were often combined with drip irrigation. The 
government in 1990 wanted the greenhouses used only in the 
reclaimed areas to conserve the old land for wheat and other staples. 

Energy, Mining, and Manufacturing 

The industrial sector, which included energy, mining, and manu- 
facturing, constituted the backbone of the Egyptian economy in 
the early 1990s. Whereas its share of GDP did not exceed 15 per- 
cent in 1952, it stood at more than 33 percent of GDP throughout 
the 1980s. The sector, however, did not perform as well in other 
respects, especially in creation of employment. In 1986 it absorbed 
less than 2 million persons out of a total work force of more than 
12 million. The sector faced many problems that hampered its 
growth. Reform was required in many policy areas within and out- 
side industry if the sector were to lift Egypt from dependence on 
raw material exports and other exogenous resources that supplied 
the major portion of foreign currency (see Balance of Payments 
and Main Sources of Foreign Exchange, this ch.). 


Egypt produced from domestic sources practically all the ener- 
gy it consumed. Electricity was generated from oil-powered sta- 
tions and hydro-powered turbines on the Nile, especially those of 
the Aswan High Dam. Oil and, increasingly, gas and their deriva- 
tives supplied other types of energy, and in 1990 Egypt was about 
to begin mining coal in Sinai. Solar energy, an abundant resource, 
had not been tapped because technology was not sufficiently devel- 
oped to enable it to compete with other energy sources. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Oil increasingly dominated the energy sector after the mid-1970s. 
In 1986 petroleum constituted about 90 percent of production and 
about 75 percent of consumption, in addition to being one of the 
major foreign exchange earners. The first oil well was drilled in 
Egypt in 1886, but commercial production began only in 1913. 
Output remained minimal until the 1950s, when the government 
entered into joint ventures with foreign oil companies for explora- 
tion and development. Through the Egyptian General Petroleum 
Company (EGPC), which was established in 1962, the government 
pushed for production expansion after the 1974 oil price rise; by 
1976 Egypt had an oil trade surplus. Production continued to grow 
in the 1980s, from nearly 29.4 million tons per year (1 ton = 6.6 
to 8 barrels depending on density) in 1981 to an average of 42.7 
million tons per year between 1984 and 1988. The average was 
lowered somewhat by the drop in output in 1986 when oil prices 
plummeted from US$22 per barrel in the previous year to US$12 
per barrel. Egypt became an observer member in the Organiza- 
tion of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 1984, but its 
production policy was dictated less by OPEC's limits than by market 

About 75 percent to 80 percent of oil output in the 1980s came 
from the Gulf of Suez fields, and the rest from scattered sites in 
the Western, Arabian (or Eastern), and Sinai deserts and the Del- 
ta. The major foreign oil company in Egypt was Amoco, which 
operated in Egypt through its subsidiary, the Gulf of Suez Petroleum 
Company (Gupco). The firm produced about one-half of the coun- 
try's oil output. In 1987 it leased 19,000 square kilometers in Sinai 
for oil exploration. Other concessions were given to companies such 
as Shell and the Italian Azienda Generale Italiana dei Petroli 
(AGIP). The drop in oil prices in 1986 compelled the EGPC to 
agree to production sharing based on a sliding scale tied to the price 
of crude oil. Egypt's recoverable reserves were put at 4.5 billion 
barrels or the equivalent of less than fourteen years of production 
at the rate of the late 1980s. At the end of the decade, however, 
oil companies were confident that there was more oil to be dis- 
covered in the Western Desert and possibly in Sinai. If more oil 
should be found, it was likely that recovery costs would increase 
because of the greater depths at which deposits might be located, 
especially offshore. 

In addition to oil, important natural gas discoveries were made 
during the 1970s and 1980s, and gas was projected to gain greater 
significance in the 1990s. Natural gas, condensates, and butagas 
output increased steadily between 1980 and 1988, from 1.8 mil- 
lion tons to 6.8 million tons (oil equivalent), or at an annual rate 


The Economy 

of 18 percent. Gas was expected to be used mostly domestically, 
as an oil substitute, thus extending the period during which oil 
would be available for export. Gas reserves were estimated at about 
0.28 trillion cubic meters and could be as high as 1.12 trillion cubic 
meters. In the Second Five- Year Plan (FY 1987-91), gas output was 
projected to increase by more than 76 percent over the 1986 level. 

In 1989 the government signed thirty-five contracts for gas ex- 
ploration and development, mainly in the Western Desert. Many 
of these had awaited signature for some time. The government at 
first thought itself capable of producing gas on its own; however, 
the debt pressure, the fall of oil prices, and the large investment 
needed for the task forced it to reconsider its position. Moreover, 
the government offered contracting firms better terms than previ- 
ously, including payment in cash and oil (which the companies 
preferred) at international market prices, with a 15 percent discount 
for the government as a compensation for building the pipeline net- 
work. The company investing the most was Shell. 

Egypt's electric power capacity grew substantially between 1952 
and 1969 and leveled off for the next ten years. It increased from 
21,000 megawatts in FY 1981 to 35,200 megawatts in FY 1986. 
Nearly 20,000 megawatts of the latter was power supplied by the 
Aswan Dam and the Aswan High Dam; the rest was thermal pow- 
er. The country was in near panic by 1988 because the long drought 
in Ethiopia, where most of the Nile water originates, lowered the 
water in the Aswan High Dam's Lake Nasser to levels that threat- 
ened complete stoppage of the turbines. Fortunately, the rains came 
before this happened, but the event pointed to the danger of heavy 
reliance on a single source of power. The government planned to 
increase power capacity to 40,500 megawatts by 1992. 

A final source of energy in Egypt was coal from the Magharah 
mines in northeastern Sinai. The mines were thought to contain 
25 million tons of recoverable reserves. They were closed in the 1960s 
but were expected to produce 600,000 tons per year from 1989 on- 
ward. The fuel would be earmarked mainly for the 2,500-megawatt 
Zaafaranah complex on the Gulf of Suez. 

Overall energy consumption grew rapidly after the mid-1970s. 
The growth was estimated at 10 to 13 percent annually beginning 
in the mid-1970s and throughout the 1980s. Energy consumption 
per capita was estimated at 588 kilograms of oil equivalent in 1987, 
commensurate with Egypt's status as a low-middle-income country 
in World Bank classification. Industry was the largest energy con- 
sumer; its share, for example, stood at 55 percent of total consump- 
tion in the 1970s and probably higher in the 1980s. The electric 
grid reached practically all villages by 1984. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

The high growth of energy consumption was attributed to ris- 
ing incomes, the price subsidy, and the building of an aluminum 
smelting plant. The implicit subsidy was estimated at US$3 bil- 
lion in FY 1983 and at double that amount in FY 1986. In spite 
of two price hikes, electricity prices in 1988 were put at about 23 
percent of the cost of generation, transportation, and distribution. 
Fuel prices were set at about 25 percent of international market 
prices. Both private domestic consumers and public industries 
received the subsidized rates. 

The price issue clouded negotiations between the government 
and its creditors. In 1988 the World Bank held up a US$800-million 
loan for building power stations because of the issue. The govern- 
ment did, however, raise prices more than once. In 1985 prices 
were raised by 40 percent, on a graduated basis so as to protect 
low-income consumers. They were also pushed up drastically in 
1986: 276 percent for fuel oil, 67 percent for kerosene, and 73 per- 
cent for diesel. The capacity of the government to raise private con- 
sumer prices to anywhere near their economic prices in the near 
future was limited; the government said that in 1987 the energy 
bill constituted about one-quarter of the average civil servant's 


Egypt had adequate energy sources, but only a few other natural 
resources. The total real value of minerals mined was about £E102 
million in 1986, up from £E60 million in 1981 . The chief minerals 
in terms of volume output were iron ore, phosphates, and salt. The 
quantities produced in 1986 were estimated at 2,048, 1,310, and 1,233 
tons, respectively, compared with 2,139, 691, and 883 tons in 1981. 
In addition, minor amounts of asbestos, 313 tons, and quartz, 19 
tons, were mined in 1986. Preliminary exploration in Sinai indi- 
cated the presence of zinc, tin, lead, and copper deposits. 


The first systematic effort in modern Egyptian history to create 
a manufacturing sector was undertaken during Muhammad Ali's 
rule in the first half of the nineteenth century. Although that at- 
tempt failed to achieve the ambitious goals set for it, the rudiments 
of modern manufacturing were put in place. These consisted 
primarily of food processing, such as rice milling and sugar refin- 
ing, and textile production, including cotton ginning and produc- 
tion of linen and woolen fabrics. Little was accomplished, however, 
for about ninety years afterward, and the economy remained es- 
sentially dependent on cotton exports. 



Egypt: A Country Study 

The Great Depression and World War II opened up new op- 
portunities for industrialization, and the interwar period witnessed 
the beginning of import- substitution industrialization. Industrial 
output, which rose more than 40 percent between 1939 and 1946, 
increased by nearly 63 percent between 1946 and 1951. A brief 
recession occurred between 1950 and 1953, after a post- World War 
II boom ended; recovery followed in 1954. The high growth rates 
before 1950 reflected the low base from which industrialization be- 
gan; during this period, industry was still in its infancy. Industrial 
enterprises were overwhelmingly privately owned by Egyptian na- 
tionals, a situation that contrasted with the previous periods when 
foreigners dominated the sector. 

Industrialization was given priority during Nasser's presiden- 
cy. The government increased investment outlays and undertook 
a comprehensive planning effort to identify promising projects. 
Gradually, it took over industrial firms, and by the early 1960s, 
most large manufacturing firms were in public hands. From 1953 
onward, growth of the manufacturing sector was uneven, with peri- 
ods of high growth followed by recessions. Statistics in the manufac- 
turing sector, as in others, were problematic and should be viewed 
with caution. In the ten years from FY 1953 to FY 1963, manufac- 
turing output grew at an average rate of more than 10 percent. 
Whether this growth could have occurred without the revolution- 
ary regime's drive and institutional changes is debatable. Growth 
slowed, however, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, even register- 
ing negative rates, especially between 1966 and 1968. 

The situation shifted in the mid-1970s. The real value of manu- 
facturing output at current prices was estimated to have grown from 
about £E2.1 billion in FY 1975 to £E5.3 billion in FY 1980, at an 
annual rate of 19.6 percent. The corresponding figures for the peri- 
od from FY 1980 to FY 1985 showed an increase to £E 10.1 bil- 
lion, and an annual growth rate of 13.7 percent. By the end of the 
1980s, however, the sector was facing difficulties and possibly ex- 
periencing a recession, thanks, among other things, to the plunge 
in oil prices in 1986 and to the country's accumulation of large 

The output increases of the 1970s resulted from investment in 
and improvement of the productivity of existing firms. The share 
of manufacturing (including mining) investment averaged from 
around one-fourth to one-third of total investment from 1954 up 
to 1989. For example, manufacturing investment was estimated 
at 31.3 percent in FY 1977 and 23.9 percent in FY 1986. The Sec- 
ond Five-Year Plan (FY 1987-91) projected that manufacturing 
would make up more than 26 percent of the total. It was not clear 


The Economy 

how financial difficulties would affect these projections, but the pro- 
portion of total investment to GDP was already falling by the end 
of the 1980s. 

Manufacturing productivity improved after the slowdown be- 
tween 1966 and 1974 as a result, among other factors, of capacity 
utilization made possible by the income-induced rise in demand. 
Idle capacity approximated 16 percent of output value in 1973. 
Subsequently, total-factor productivity of public-sector enterprises 
under the Ministry of Industry was calculated as having risen by 
3.5 percent annually for textiles and by 8.7 percent annually for 
chemicals between 1973 and 1981. No similar information was read- 
ily available after that date. The growth rates of private-sector 
manufacturing productivity were lower, probably reflecting the 
higher prices the sector paid for inputs (see below). Yet in spite 
of the steady rise of productivity and output, the sector's share of 
GDP remained constant in the 1980s, because it was outperformed 
by other sectors. 

The contribution of manufacturing to employment was also not 
commensurate with the funds that were allocated to it. The num- 
ber of workers in manufacturing (including mining) was estimat- 
ed at about 1 . 1 million in 1970, 1.4 million in 1980, and 1 .8 million 
in 1986, or 12.3 percent, 12.6 percent, and 14.8 percent, respec- 
tively, of total employment. The sector's inability to increase em- 
ployment substantially was usually attributed to the fact that 
manufacturing operations were highly capital intensive. Also, the 
increases in productivity and value added may have come largely 
from using previously underemployed labor, rather than from new 

One of the central issues of Egyptian industry in the 1980s was 
governmental price regulation in both the production and distri- 
bution domains. In the production domain, public sector compa- 
nies purchased inputs, such as energy, at subsidized prices. The 
private sector complained that it, in contrast, had to pay higher 
prices. The successive increases of energy prices and the lifting of 
controls on agricultural prices probably narrowed the gap between 
the costs of the two sectors, however. 

In the distribution sphere, the government fixed the prices of 
a wide array of domestically manufactured consumer products, from 
beverages to soap to cars, at levels that many economists consid- 
ered too low, Thus, the pricing system acted as a double-edged 
sword and affected companies differently; some benefited whereas 
others lost. After 1982 the government eased its price controls and 
permitted gradual increases so long as they did not threaten politi- 
cal stability. The companies themselves also resorted to various 


Egypt: A Country Study 

mechanisms to offset the restrictions. For example, private com- 
panies producing beverages reduced the bottle size but maintained 
the price, and the public car manufacturing company, An Nasr, 
required that buyers pay in dollars so as to have access to hard 
currency and avoid the continual decline of the value of the Egyp- 
tian pound. In spite of this, both private and public firms continued 
to lobby in 1990 for more flexibility in pricing their products. 

Manufacturing exports grew slowly, falling in some years; ex- 
ports started to make a strong showing only at the close of the 1980s. 
For example, the value of manufactured exports dropped from 
US$504 miUion in 1978 to US$373 million in 1979 and exceeded 
its former level only in 1983. Manufactured exports nearly dou- 
bled in value, however, between 1983 and 1987, from US$656 mil- 
lion to US$1 .26 billion. The share of manufacturing in total exports 
was dwarfed by that of oil during the peak period of oil prices in 
the first half of the 1980s. It grew subsequently, amounting to more 
than 26 percent in 1988, and manufactured exports were becom- 
ing perhaps the fastest growing area of the economy in the late 
1980s. The largest manufactured export item throughout was tex- 
tiles because of the favorable reputation of Egyptian cotton. Tex- 
tiles made up more than one-third of total manufacturing exports 
in the 1980s. 

Industrialization was an inward-looking undertaking, intended 
in the first place to enhance self-reliance through import substitu- 
tion. Industrial selection, therefore, often did not take into account 
comparative advantage. Some domestic-resource cost analyses in- 
dicated that steel and chemical industries, for example, did not enjoy 
comparative advantage. Comparative advantage changed over time, 
however, and domestic-resource costs for the steel industry, for in- 
stance, fell considerably between 1965 and 1985 as a result of ex- 
perience, increasing skill of workers, discovery of better quality raw 
materials, and improving economies of scale. Manufacturing ex- 
ports were also affected by macroeconomic factors, such as the over- 
valued currency and the level of domestic demand. The growth 
of exports in the late 1980s probably partially reflected the depreci- 
ation of the Egyptian pound that made Egyptian goods cheaper 
abroad. Developing a successful export market also required mar- 
keting skills and access to information that Egypt lacked after many 
years of bilateral trade. The Second Five-Year Plan (FY 1987-91) 
spoke of a shift to export-oriented rather than import-substitution 
industrialization . 

Egyptian manufacturing was progressively diversified over the 
years through the introduction of new products, but food process- 
ing and textiles, which produced mostly consumer goods, remained 


The Economy 

the dominant categories. The share of food processing hovered 
around one-third of total manufacturing between 1975 and 1985. 
The share of textiles was close to that of food until 1981, when, 
because of the fall in cotton production, it began to shrink, reach- 
ing one-quarter in FY 1985. The proportion of engineering and 
electrical manufactured goods, which included such items as iron 
and steel, vehicles, and equipment, rose from 18 percent to nearly 
24 percent between 1975 and 1985. The fourth largest category 
was chemicals and pharmaceuticals, with 12 to 14 percent of the 
total over the same period. The last two types of industry were those 
producing intermediate goods, that is, inputs for other industries, 
and capital goods; no data were available on the exact share of each 
of these. 

Industries were located mainly in the urban governorates. Cairo 
and Giza accounted for about 37.5 percent of all industries and 
Alexandria for more than 23 percent. Industrial location was 
governed by factors such as population density, as in the case of 
food processing, and by the availability of skilled labor, as in the 
case of electronics in Cairo, Giza, and Alexandria, as well as in 
the case of furniture in Damietta and Al Qalyubiyah, north of Cairo. 
The concentration of industries both expressed and reinforced 
regional disparities as well as the skewed population distribution. 
In the 1980s, the government was offering tax and other incen- 
tives to investors who would locate their factories away from the 
metropolitan centers. 

Manufacturing had become largely a public- sector activity by 
the early 1960s. Before 1952 the government owned a limited num- 
ber of enterprises, including a petroleum refinery, the government 
press, and some military factories. By the late 1960s, the public 
sector's output value accounted for about two- thirds of the total, 
and it has remained more or less at that level since. The size of the 
public sector would be smaller if measured in terms of its share 
of employment, which ranged from 50 to 60 percent. The public 
sector was dominant in large-scale firms, especially those with more 
than 500 employees; its share declined in smaller-scale industries. 
Government firms tended to be large because investment favored 
such scale, the nationalized factories were selectively large, and 
government job guarantees in FY 1961 often led to overstafflng. 
The manufacturing categories in which the public sector dominated 
were the chemicals, pharmaceuticals, engineering, and electrical 
industries. The public sector also owned large textile and sugar 
refining factories. 

The private sector dominated small-scale industries, especially 
those with ten workers or fewer. This group included industries 


Egypt: A Country Study 

devoted to food, beverages, dairy products, spinning and weav- 
ing, and various handicrafts. Some of the most profitable private- 
sector firms in the 1980s were those producing beverages, light tools, 
consumer electric products, printing, and apparel. Businesses with 
the highest productivity growth rates were food-processing opera- 
tions, such as those producing sugar, oil, fodder, dairy products, and 
canned fruits and vegetables. Some analysts, therefore, anticipated 
that these manufacturing fields would attract private entrepreneurs 
in the near future, unless incentives in other areas were forthcoming. 

The public- sector predominance occurred chiefly through invest- 
ment. Public investment in manufacturing throughout the 1960s 
and 1970s ranged between 85 percent and 90 percent of total 
manufacturing investment. In the First Five- Year Plan (FY 1982- 
86), it constituted about 80 percent; in the Second Five- Year Plan 
(FY 1987-91), it was to be reduced to between 60 percent and 63 
percent, mainly because of the government's dwindling financial 
resources. Public investment was to focus on finishing ongoing proj- 
ects and upgrading industrial plants. Any new projects would be 
subject to greater technical and economic scrutiny than in the past. 

Whether the private sector would be able to provide the esti- 
mated 40 percent of new investment remained to be seen. The sector 
faced a thicket of problems, including an unwieldy bureaucracy, 
a pricing system that was not based on market factors, a shortage 
of skilled labor, and the uncertainty of investment calculations be- 
cause of the instability of the national currency. In addition, un- 
regulated operations of investment companies drew investments 
from productive areas, and it was difficult to obtain foreign ex- 
change as the pound depreciated, especially for schemes with a large 
import component. 

The role and size of the public sector became a point of conten- 
tion after the 1974 infitah. The struggle over the sector grew more 
heated as Egypt's creditors and aid donors, especially the United 
States through AID and the multilateral agencies, began to press 
the policy of privatization. Many interests were involved: business, 
labor, political parties, government, and the intelligentsia. The 
thrust of the argument for privatization was that the public sector 
was inefficient and that many firms were losing money and would 
have closed down had it not been for government "bail-out." 
Moreover, it was contended that by selling its companies the govern- 
ment could reduce its debt and its budget deficits. While admit- 
ting that some public firms had lost money, privatization opponents 
claimed that the number of losing firms had decreased substan- 
tially in recent years; that pricing policy was responsible for some 
of the losses; that profits as a whole substantially surpassed losses; 


The Economy 

that the public sector invested in projects important for the coun- 
try's welfare, in which the private sector would not be interested; 
that privatization would lead to the displacement of large num- 
bers of workers; and that the public sector was the largest taxpay- 
er in the country. Opponents of privatization argued that if the 
private sector wished to invest in manufacturing it could create new 
establishments rather than buy existing ones. They agreed, however, 
on the need for public-sector and other policy reforms. The pro- 
posed reforms revolved around giving the enterprises more flexi- 
bility to set their own production and price levels and employment 
policy, as well as introducing modern management procedures. 

Foreign Trade 

From 1840 to 1930, Egypt had a free trade system, based on the 
conventions that were imposed by the European powers. The con- 
ventions limited tariffs to 5 percent — later 8 percent — on most impor- 
ted goods. This system constituted a serious obstacle to the country's 
industrialization. In 1930 Egyptian authorities, in their quest to 
establish an industrial base, were able to determine their own im- 
port duty levels, setting them at 6 to 8 percent for raw materials 
and up to 15 percent for manufactured goods. Another step toward 
more independent decision making in the foreign trade domain 
occurred in 1947 when the government decided to leave the ster- 
ling standard and move away from trade with Britain. 

As with other aspects of the economy, foreign trade came under 
government control gradually in the 1950s and then decisively in 
1961. From that year until Sadat's infitah, all exports, imports, 
prices, and payments were handled by public organizations and 
enterprises. The government, however, did not have an entirely 
free hand in running foreign trade. It had to operate within the 
constraints of domestic supply and demand and under the com- 
promises reached with bilateral trading partners. The private sec- 
tor also could still export fruit and vegetables and a few other items. 

The state monopoly on trade was eased in the 1970s. Initially, 
private firms were permitted to import some commodities under 
particular conditions. Then, in 1976 the government holding com- 
pany that had controlled foreign trade was abolished, and the pri- 
vate sector was able to trade in most goods, with a few exceptions, 
such as cotton. The government, especially under Mubarak, offered 
investment incentives that included fewer restrictions on imports 
and exports of commodities by the private sector. The government 
also extended the multirate exchange system, in part to facilitate 
foreign trade transactions. But the multiple exchange system created 


Egypt: A Country 'Study 

statistical difficulties, and foreign trade accounts could be more con- 
sistently examined if expressed in dollars or Special Drawing Rights 
(SDRs— see Glossary) of the IMF. 


The composition of commodity (also called visible) exports shifted 
over time. Before World War II, raw cotton made up 90 percent 
of total export value, but by 1970 it had dropped to 45 percent. 
Cotton textiles, meanwhile, rose to represent 16 percent in 1970. 
In the 1970s and 1980s, oil and petroleum products dominated the 
export list, reaching about 79 percent of the total in 1985. This 
share, however, fell with the drop in oil prices in 1986 (see table 
10, Appendix). 

Non-oil exports stagnated and in some years decreased. For ex- 
ample, textile exports fell from US$267 miUion in 1979 to US$199 
million in 1983. They increased after the government gave incen- 
tives to exporters, permitting them to retain their foreign-exchange 
earnings and to convert them at the free-market rate. The drop 
in the oil price in 1986, however, led to a serious decline of rough- 
ly 22 percent in the overall value of exports between 1985 and 1988. 
Economists advised that the country should strive to increase ex- 
ports of textiles and other manufactured products in the long run, 
because of the volatility of raw material prices and the potential 
rapid depletion of some natural resources, especially oil. 


Two major trends occurred in the composition of merchandise 
imports. The first trend was the decline in the late 1980s in the 
value of capital and intermediate goods (e.g., industrial and agricul- 
tural inputs). For example, the value of capital goods imports in 
1988 was 14 percent less than it was in 1985. While capital goods 
and intermediate goods imports dropped in absolute value, 
however, their share of total imports grew. Nevertheless, the decline 
in the absolute value was likely to have an adverse impact on the 
development of such sectors as industry and agriculture. 

The second trend was the continuous increase from 1979 to 1985 
in the share of food and agriculture in the import bill. The increase 
began in the 1970s, as the result of a combination of population 
and income growth and the unsatisfactory performance of agricul- 
ture. The trend persisted through the 1980s, until food became the 
fourth largest item in the import bill. Not all the value of food com- 
ing into Egypt, however, appeared in foreign trade accounts, be- 
cause a large proportion of the wheat came as grants, especially 


The Economy 

from the United States. Hence, the import figures seriously un- 
derestimated the value of imported foods. 

Overall, merchandise imports rose rapidly after 1975, mainly 
because of the big rise in world oil prices, which gave Egypt more 
purchasing power, and because of the liberalization of import policy. 
In FY 1983, an election year, merchandise imports approached 
US$10 billion. The government subsequently reintroduced some 
restrictions on private- sector imports. These measures, together 
with the general scarcity of foreign exchange in commercial banks, 
led to a leveling off of imports and then to an actual decline. 

The value of imports since World War II has consistently ex- 
ceeded that of exports, and a chronic trade deficit has marked 
Egypt's foreign trade. The deficit nearly doubled between 1979 
and 1985, growing at an annual rate of about 11.8 percent. The 
growth of the deficit slowed considerably after the 1985-86 collapse 
of oil prices and the concomitant drop in imports. In 1987 the deficit 
reached about US$4.4 billion, and it climbed again in 1988 to nearly 
US$5.9 billion. 

Trade Partners 

The revolutionary regime shifted Egypt not only politically but 
also economically toward the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. 
Prior to 1952, Egypt's major trading partner was Britain. By 1970 
the share of Egypt's exports to the Soviet Union and Eastern Eu- 
rope had risen to about 60 percent of the total, climbing from about 
20 percent in 1955. The share of imports from the Soviet Union 
and Eastern Europe during the same period increased from 7 per- 
cent to about 33 percent. Nevertheless, Western industrialized coun- 
tries continued to be the major source of imports, especially of food, 
which Eastern Europe could not furnish. In general, trade with 
Eastern Europe showed a balance of payments surplus in favor of 
Egypt, but this surplus may have resulted partly from politically 
motivated subsidies. 

Ending the concentration of trade with Eastern Europe was an 
integral element of Sadat's westward reorientation of the country. 
The consolidation of trade with the Organisation for Economic Co- 
operation and Development (OECD) continued apace under 
Mubarak. The United States emerged as Egypt's largest source 
of imports, in part because its aid to Egypt was conditioned on 
Egypt's purchasing American goods and services. Between 1982 
and 1986, Egypt obtained from the United States an average of 
16 percent of its total imports. On the average, OECD nations sup- 
plied 46 percent of imports and purchased 55 percent of Egypt's 
exports by 1986. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Put differently, Egyptian foreign trade was concentrated with 
the industrialized countries. Third World and Arab nations were 
minor trading partners. Some analysts argued, however, that if 
Egypt wished to attract foreign industrial investment it would need 
to obtain new markets, especially in the Arab region. The Arab 
market had been closed to Egypt because of Egypt's 1979 peace 
treaty with Israel, but the reentry of Egypt into the Arab fold in 
the mid-1980s might further trade with the Arab nations. A regional 
economic Arab Cooperation Council including Egypt, Iraq, Jor- 
dan, and the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) was formed 
in February 1989. It set modest goals, and in the early 1990s it 
was unclear how this accord would fare, given the failed record 
of Arab integration schemes and the politicized nature of the bloc, 
which, for example, excluded Syria, a natural partner in regional 
economic cooperation. 

Balance of Payments and Main Sources of Foreign 

Balance of payments transactions are usually tabulated under 
two broad categories, current account and capital account. Current 
account includes visible (merchandise) trade as well as invisible 
items, such as tourism, shipping, and profits and other moneys 
earned overseas. 

In Egypt the credit side of the current account balance was heavily 
influenced by four items: oil, the Suez Canal, tourism, and work- 
ers' remittances. Their share in total resources (GDP plus net 
imports) climbed to about 45 percent in the early 1980s, from 6 
percent in 1974. It declined afterward but continued to be the back- 
bone of the economy. These four items also contributed consider- 
ably more to Egypt's foreign exchange income than they did to 
the country's total resources. A common characteristic of these items 
was that they were "exogenous" resources, i.e., their productivi- 
ty had little relationship to Egyptian labor, and their income was 
highly dependent on market and political forces beyond the con- 
trol of the Egyptian government (see table 11, Appendix). 


Petroleum played a major part in Egypt's balance of payments. 
For many years, it was the most important source of foreign ex- 
change for the government and the second most important, after 
workers' remittances, for the economy as a whole. In addition, other 
exogenous sources, remittances, and Suez Canal revenues were 
directly and indirectly influenced by petroleum production. Its 


The Economy 

significance as a generator of foreign exchange first emerged in the 
1970s. With the rise of oil prices in the world market in 1974, Egypt 
began to pump greater quantities of oil. Oil prices continued to 
increase between 1974 and 1980, when they reached about US$38 
per barrel. They began to fall after 1980 until they crashed to about 
US$12 in 1986 but made a slight recovery after that date. 

Crude oil production increased more than fivefold between 1974 
and 1984, from 7.5 million tons to 38.5 million tons. Some of the 
increase was absorbed by domestic consumption, while the rest was 
exported. Crude oil exports tripled between 1976 and the first half 
of the 1980s. The index dropped to 70 in 1986 as the government 
sought to counter the decline in prices by reducing supply, hoping 
that the price would quickly rebound. Output was restored to previ- 
ous levels in 1987. In 1988 the index fell once more to 68. 

The export value of oil by domestic companies followed the trajec- 
tory of both prices and production. At current prices, it peaked 
in 1984 at about US$3 billion, dropped to about US$1.4 billion 
in 1986, and rose to about US$1.6 billion in 1988. These figures 
represented the Egyptian share, not that of foreign companies (the 
latter appeared on the credit side in export transactions, then as 
outflows on the debit side in net factor income entries, summing 
up to zero in the total current account balance). 

Experts pointed out that not only were petroleum revenues un- 
predictable but oil was depletable. They predicted depletion could 
occur within twenty to thirty years or somewhat later if natural 
gas, which was in some respects an oil substitute, were taken into 
account. The exportable surplus of hydrocarbons, however, would 
end long before the supply was exhausted. 

Suez Canal 

The French played a significant role in the building of the Suez 
Canal, which links the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. French 
engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps designed and supervised the con- 
struction of the project. In addition, the French, who, like other 
European powers, sought to shorten the trip between Europe and 
Asia, funded most of the construction. Completion of the 160- 
kilometer long waterway, however, took ten years of excruciating 
and poorly compensated labor by Egyptian workers, who were draft- 
ed at the rate of 20,000 every ten months from the ranks of the 

The canal was opened to navigation in November 1869 under 
a concession to Britain and France scheduled to expire in 1968. 
Although the French were the force behind the project, Britain stood 
to gain the most because of its extensive possessions in Asia. In 


Egypt: A Country Study 

the 1870s it "bought" the shares of the Egyptian khedive. The canal 
remained under the control of both powers until Nasser national- 
ized it in 1956; it has since been operated by the Suez Canal 
Authority (see Abbas Hilmi, 1848-54 and Said, 1854-63, ch. 1). 

The canal was closed to navigation twice in the contemporary 
period. The first closure was brief, coming after the Tripartite 
British-French-Israeli Invasion of Egypt in 1956, an invasion 
primarily motivated by the nationalization of the waterway. The 
canal was reopened in 1957. The second closure occurred after the 
June 1967 War with Israel and lasted until 1975, when Egypt and 
Israel signed the second disengagement accord. 

The tonnage passing through the canal increased consistently 
except for a short interruption after 1985-86, when the Iran-Iraq 
War hampered oil production and navigation in the Persian Gulf. 
Between 1976 and 1983, net tonnage rose from 187 to 378, increasing 
at the rate of 10.5 percent annually. Traffic in the canal depended 
partially on oil shipments. Tanker tonnage made up more than 40 
percent of total traffic in 1976, and about 36 percent of the total 
in 1983. 

Revenues increased throughout the period, growing at an an- 
nual rate of 8.7 percent between 1979 and 1985. They were ex- 
pected to reach US$1.3 billion in 1988. The canal thus emerged 
as the third major source of foreign exchange after workers' remit- 
tances and oil exports. Receipts from the canal continued to climb, 
in spite of the reduction in tonnage, partly because the canal toll 
was raised from 2 to 6.5 percent annually between 1981 and 1985. 
Also, because the toll was evaluated in SDRs of the IMF, revenues 
did not suffer in terms of the United States dollar value in 1986 
although the dollar depreciated that year against the SDR. 

Growth in canal revenues was likely to remain modest. The 
canal's size limited the volume of traffic that could pass through 
it, and if tolls were raised beyond certain limits, tankers and other 
vessels could opt for other routes. Economists accordingly estimated 
that future receipts would perhaps grow in line with world trade 
at the rate of 4 to 5 percent annually. 


The coincidence of the infitah and the upward jump in oil prices 
in the mid-1970s led to enormous labor emigration to the oil- 
producing Arab states, as well as to what became the largest source 
of foreign exchange: remittances. Egyptians had already been work- 
ing in many of these countries but only in small numbers and usual- 
ly as professionals and skilled workers. The sums they sent back 


The Economy 

home were modest; in 1970 recorded remittances were estimated 
at around US$30 million. 

In 1986 the government estimated the number of Egyptians work- 
ing abroad at 3 million. They included large numbers of unskilled 
workers, but there were also many skilled workers or profession- 
als. Iraq hosted the largest number, sometimes estimated at 1 mil- 
lion. In part, the flow of Egyptian workers into Iraq was stimulated 
by its war with Iran, which required the drafting of large numbers 
of men of working age. The overall number of Egyptians working 
in Arab countries was thought to have decreased as a result of the 
drop in oil prices in the second half of the 1980s. 

Analysts disagreed on both the amount and the actual impact 
of remittances on the economy. For instance, remittances were es- 
timated in the early 1980s at between US$3 billion and US$18 bil- 
lion. The reason for the discrepancy was that workers often remitted 
earnings to their families by hand, not through official banking 
channels. They were prompted to do so by the instability and offi- 
cial overvaluation of the Egyptian pound and by the fact that many 
workers were illiterate or had limited education and felt uneasy 
dealing with banks. 

The avoidance of official routes gave rise to a hidden or invisi- 
ble economy, controlled by intermediaries and money dealers who 
profited from exchange-rate differentials. Some analysts suggest- 
ed that the presence of this economy, depending on its size, might 
invalidate calculations about such factors as the balance of pay- 
ments, the GDP, and the government's ability to carry out partic- 
ular exchange policies. 

Recorded remittances fluctuated over time, not always reflect- 
ing the income of expatriate workers. According to some estimates, 
remittances fell to about US$1.94 billion in 1982, from about 
US$2.86 billion in 1981. The decline was probably caused by the 
uncertainty generated by the assassination of Sadat in 1981 . Remit- 
tances recovered subsequently and in 1984 reached approximate- 
ly US$3.93 billion, a record high. The combination of instability 
in the Persian Gulf and the collapse in oil prices caused remittances 
to fall again; in 1988 they stood at about US$3.39 billion. 

Egyptian analysts and policy makers believed that a large pool 
of savings kept by migrant Egyptian workers and others either 
flowed abroad or never flowed home and that it vastly exceeded 
remittances. The sums they cited ranged from US$40 billion to 
US$70 billion. Attracting these funds to improve the balance of 
payments position might require improving the investment at- 
mosphere and opportunities, raising interest rates, and simplifying 


Egypt: A Country Study 

exchange transactions. As one incentive, the government in 1986 
offered tax exemptions on bonds it intended to sell in foreign ex- 

The future of remittances depended on many factors. In Iraq 
stirrings surfaced in late 1989 against the presence of large num- 
bers of Egyptian workers. The events prompted high-level contacts 
between the two governments and the intervention of the Iraqi presi- 
dent to reassure the workers. In addition, because the construc- 
tion boom in the Persian Gulf had ended, the Gulf countries, for 
social, political, and economic reasons, would hesitate to welcome 
many newcomers. According to one estimate, remittances could 
perhaps grow at a real annual rate of 1 to 2 percent after 1990. 


As the site of one of the oldest civilizations, Egypt held many 
unique attractions for tourists. In addition, the country has some 
of the finest beaches on the Mediterranean, modern cities, an at- 
tractive climate, moderate prices for services, and a reputation for 
hospitality to foreign visitors. 

Whereas tourism was not an exogenous resource to the extent 
that oil or remittances were, it had been affected by politics and 
external developments in which Egypt had little say. The number 
of tourists reached a peak of 578,734 in 1966 before the June 1967 
War. The number dropped sharply for several years afterward and 
then began to rebound. The figure in 1972 was 541 ,000, and it in- 
creased steadily thereafter. The only exception was in 1986 when 
the number fell to about 1 . 3 million from about 1 . 5 million in the 
preceding year. The decrease was attributed to the hijacking of the 
Italian liner, the Achille Lauro, toward the end of 1985; security police 
riots in Cairo in February 1986; and the United States air raid 
on Libya in April 1986. The growth rate in numbers of tourists 
arriving in Egypt between 1975 and 1985 was a respectable 6.7 
percent per annum. In 1988 the minister of tourism anticipated 
that about 2 million tourists would visit Egypt that year. 

The nationality composition of tourists fluctuated. The main 
groups were Arabs and OECD nationals. Between 1975 and 1980, 
the major increase came from OECD countries. Sadat's separate 
peace accord with Israel discouraged Arabs from spending time 
in Egypt. Between 1980 and 1984, the annual growth rate of tourists 
from both groups was approximately the same, 5.5 percent. Since 
1978 the number of Arabs has averaged 80 percent of the number 
of OECD citizens. 

Tourism earnings were difficult to trace because earnings fluc- 
tuated while the number of tourists kept rising. Economic and 


The Economy 

statistical reasons accounted for these difficulties. After 1982, in- 
come from Egypt Air, the national airline, was moved to nonfac- 
tor services, causing tourist receipts to seem lower in 1983 and 1985 
than they were in 1979. Furthermore, the increase in the number 
of average tourist nights spent in the country did not necessarily 
correspond to the number of visitors. The value of the Egyptian 
pound also continued to depreciate, dropping by about 30 percent 
against the dollar in 1986 and adding another discrepancy to the 
accounts. Finally, tourists preferred to exchange their money in 
the free market, with its higher exchange rate, rather than in the 
official market. As a result, the records did not reflect actual in- 
come, which was believed to be much higher. Tourism income had 
risen fairly steadily, and was forecast to reach about £E1.17 bil- 
lion in 1988, placing it next to the Suez Canal as a source of for- 
eign exchange, or fourth among exogenous resources. 

In the 1980s, the government initiated various measures to at- 
tract tourists and encourage them to use official exchange chan- 
nels. It intensified marketing efforts and added tourist offices to 
its diplomatic missions in key countries. Tourist sites were devel- 
oped in such places as the Sinai Desert. Since 1985 the minister 
of tourism had sought to privatize hotel management and to im- 
prove Egypt Air services. Encouraged by both the potential rise in 
tourism and privatization, several foreign companies won large con- 
tracts to build new and varied types of tourist centers. For exam- 
ple, in 1990 an Algerian investment group was completing a 
US$120-million development project on 1.2 million square meters 
at Al Ghardaqah on the Red Sea. In the late 1980s, applications 
for permits to establish floating hotels on the Nile surged. 

To lure tourists into exchanging their foreign currency through 
its banks, the government lowered the official tourist value of the 
Egyptian pound vis-a-vis the United States dollar. For example, 
the tourist rate rose from £E0.83 = US$1 to £E 1.1 2 to the United 
States dollar in March 1984. In January 1985 it went to a flexible 
rate that stood at £E1.25 to the United States dollar in the first 
half of 1986. Analysts generally thought that the tourist sector, given 
appropriate policies and incentives, could sustain rapid growth. 

In sum, although petroleum, remittances, the Suez Canal, and 
tourism were crucial resources to Egypt's economy and balance 
of payments, their long-term potential was limited. Oil prices fluc- 
tuated, and Egypt could deplete its exportable oil within twenty 
to thirty years. The growth of remittances and Suez Canal revenues 
was likely to be moderate, and although tourism could achieve high 
growth rates, it had a ceiling. Economists, therefore, stressed that 
sustained economic growth and development required the expansion 


Egypt: A Country Study 

and increasing productivity of the country's own commodity- 
producing sectors, especially industry and agriculture. 

Current Account Balance 

The current account balance for more than forty years — except 
during the two depressions of 1968 and 1973 following war with 
Israel — was in the red, as was the merchandise trade balance, but 
the current account deficit was smaller. The accumulated deficit 
from 1950 through 1967 came to £E993 million. The first serious 
jump, however, took place in 1975, when the current deficit rose 
to US$1 .56 billion from US$0.36 billion the previous year, reflecting 
an increase in imports because of the oil boom. Between 1982 and 
1988, the current deficit averaged US$3.6 billion, or about 9 per- 
cent of GDP. This occurred in spite of the steady rise in income 
from exogenous resources. There were years in which the deficit 
was lowered because of the large inflow of foreign currency, such 
as in 1983 when it feU to about US$2.4 billion from US$3.1 the 
previous year, thanks to a rebound in remittances, but the overall 
trend was for it to rise. In 1985 the current account deficit soared 
to about US$4.7 billion or 14.3 percent of GDP. This deficit increase 
compelled the government to impose restrictions on imports by tem- 
porarily suspending the own-exchange (that is, foreign exchange 
supplied directly by the importer rather than through commercial 
banks; much foreign exchange in Egypt circulated outside formal 
channels) import system to ameliorate the deficit. In part as a result 
of policy and in part because of the lack of foreign exchange, im- 
ports were subsequently reduced, and the deficit improved. In 1988 
it was slightly more than one-half of the 1985 deficit and the equiva- 
lent of 6.6 percent of GDP. Much pressure was being exerted on 
the government, especially because of the tremendous accumulat- 
ed debt, to lower the annual deficit further, if not to shift to a posi- 
tive balance of payments (see Debt and Restructuring, this ch.). 

Capital Account and Capital Grants 

The current account deficit was financed up to the late 1950s 
from previously accumulated reserves. As the reserves diminished, 
Egypt turned to external financing, which became the principal 
mechanism for covering the deficit. Some of the external financ- 
ing sources were nondebt- creating, such as grants and foreign direct 
investment, whereas others, primarily loans, led eventually to heavy 
indebtedness. These items appeared in the capital account section 
of balance of payments transactions. 

In the late 1950s and the 1960s, capital grants came primarily 
from Eastern Europe; no reliable estimates exist for the period, 


The Economy 

because grants were often in kind and the currencies of these coun- 
tries were not convertible. After the October 1973 War, Egypt be- 
gan to receive large grants, mainly from Arab countries, to help 
with reconstruction and to compensate for the drain on the econo- 
my caused by years of military preparedness. In 1974 the grants 
were estimated at US$1.4 billion, but they declined in succeeding 
years to less than US$100 million in 1979. Between 1973 and 1976, 
annual Arab grants averaged roughly US$900 million. Sources of 
capital grants altered after the signing of the peace accords with 
Israel in 1979, with OECD members, especially the United States, 
replacing Arab nations. Some data indicated that between 1982 
and 1988 official capital grants averaged US$903 million per an- 
num. Other estimates suggested larger amounts. 

Military grants often supplemented economic grants. From the 
United States alone, military aid averaged US$1 .28 billion per year 
in the period 1984 to 1988 (see Foreign Military Assistance, ch. 
5). The United States probably granted Egypt over the same peri- 
od US$953 million per year for civilian purposes, or about three- 
quarters as much as it gave for the military. 

Capital grants were primary among nondebt-creating sources 
of external finance, but their future was unpredictable and would 
be influenced by political factors as well as by Egypt's economic 
performance. Whereas donor governments viewed grants as as- 
sistance, Egyptians tended to see them as mutual aid from which 
donor governments reaped political, strategic, and other dividends. 
It was unlikely, many experts believed, that the United States would 
increase its grants, given its own huge budget deficit, irrespective 
of political developments. 

Direct Foreign Investment 

Foreign investment in Egypt dated from the nineteenth centu- 
ry. Relatively large amounts were invested in the 1890s, with in- 
vestment peaking in 1907. Between 1903 and 1907, for example, 
the cumulative private direct investment may have amounted to 
£E8.6 million. The two world wars and the depression interrupt- 
ed the process, and little foreign direct investment occurred dur- 
ing the nationalist economic phase under Nasser. Whatever 
investments took place then were essentially in the oil sector. In 
1974 they amounted to as little as US$87 million. 

The picture changed in the following years, in part as a result 
of a new policy, embodied in Law Number 43 (of 1974) for Arab 
and Foreign Capital Investment and Free Zones. The law sought 
to provide incentives to investors in many sectors, including indus- 
try, land reclamation, tourism, and banking. It offered concessions 


Egypt: A Country Study 

on imports, profit transfers, and taxation, as well as guarantees 
against nationalization, to which foreign investors were particu- 
larly sensitive because of the sweeping nationalization that occurred 
under Nasser. The law gave priority to projects that promised to 
generate foreign exchange and had advanced technology compo- 
nents. A special body, the General Authority for Investment and 
Free Zones, was founded to supervise foreign investment. 

Both Arab governments and private investors responded quick- 
ly. They initiated separate joint venture projects with Egypt, both 
in the military and civilian, especially banking, sectors. Arab and 
other foreign business concerns were located in the free zones near 
Alexandria, Cairo, Port Said, and Suez. Arab investments, how- 
ever, declined severely after the 1979 Camp David Accords. For- 
eign investment continued to go mainly into oil production and 
exploration. By 1981 net foreign direct investment was estimated 
at about US$1.7 billion, a tenfold nominal increase from the 
US$0.17 billion of 1970. 

The picture stayed basically the same in the 1980s. Oil and bank- 
ing absorbed the bulk of investments. In the late 1980s, however, 
tourism attracted a number of foreign investment groups, and in 
1989 a few major joint venture projects were under way with foreign 
firms, including a digital telephone exchange plant with Siemens, 
West Germany, a tire factory with Pielli, Italy, and a baby-food 
processing plant with Nestle, Switzerland. According to some esti- 
mates, the average annual foreign direct investment amounted to 
about US$255 million between 1981 and 1988; according to others, 
it was considerably higher. The difference in estimates resulted from 
frequent lack of distinction in Egyptian official statistics between 
Egyptian and Arab investment. 

As of early 1990, no action had resulted from parliamentary de- 
bate on a draft investment law that would synthesize and amend all 
previous laws. The new draft law also proposed modifications in prof- 
it transfers, making them use the highest exchange rate on the date 
of transfer. The draft law gave companies flexibility in distributing 
their capital between external and domestic sources and left it to the 
discretion of the prime minister to rule in specific situations. It also 
exempted foreign investors from administered prices and the set- 
ting of profit margins; the cabinet would have the right to inter- 
vene in special cases. In the view of some observers and business 
people, the new law of itself was insufficient to attract investments; 
a more significant factor would be the easing of bureaucratic hurdles. 


Egypt's borrowing began on a modest scale in the early 1960s 


Welder at work 
Courtesy Embassy of Egypt, Washington 

after the depletion of reserves. In 1970 long- and medium- term 
public loans (no figures were available for private loans) totaled 
US$397 million. Lending to Egypt rose rapidly after the mid-1970s. 
Up to 1978, loans came largely from Arab oil-producing states, 
which lent an average of more than US$950 million annually from 
1975 to 1978. During this period, the government was also receiv- 
ing loan commitments from OECD countries and multilateral or- 
ganizations. These exceeded US$1 billion in 1976. By 1977 loans 
reached more than US$2.3 billion. (Unless otherwise stated, all 
loan figures in this section are equal to disbursements minus repay- 
ments and include public as well as private lending.) The figure 
fell to US$1 .7 billion in 1979, because of the cessation of Arab aid. 
Since then most lending has been underwritten by OECD nations. 
Between 1979 and 1985, Egyptian borrowing ranged annually be- 
tween less than US$1 .4 billion and slightly more than US$1 .8 bil- 
lion, with an average of more than US$1.6 billion. Until 1985 
external borrowing was thus the chief source for financing the cur- 
rent account deficit. 

The situation was dramatically reversed in 1986, and annual 
loans in that year and in 1987 amounted to less than US$0.70 bil- 
lion. This coincided with lower oil income, and was the opposite 


Egypt: A Country Study 

of what happened in the mid-1970s when oil prices as well as lend- 
ing rose. By 1986 Egypt faced serious debt problems and was 
negotiating with the IMF and other creditors on debt payments 
and rescheduling as well as on economic restructuring. The credi- 
tors were reluctant to continue providing credit unless an agree- 
ment were reached with Egypt on these questions. 

Interest rates on foreign economic loans fluctuated. The nomi- 
nal rates for civilian loans ranged between 5 percent and 6.5 per- 
cent, averaging 5.6 between 1981 and 1988. The real rates were 
much lower, amounting to an average of 0.4 percent over the same 
period. Interest on military loans was, by agreement, fixed at 12 
percent to 14 percent. 

Repayments increased steadily. From US$764 million in 1977, 
they rose to their highest level of about US$1.54 billion in 1985 
at the rate of 9.1 percent per annum. This meant that the actual 
amount of funds injected into the economy did not rise in propor- 
tion to the increase in loan commitments. 

When all the preceding sources of external finance — grants, direct 
investment, and loans — began to fall to levels insufficient to cover 
the current deficit, Egypt resorted to incurring arrears in payments 
to official creditors. The arrears were difficult to document because 
of the lack of data. According to one estimate, the arrears may have 
risen from US$131 million in 1981 to US$739 million in 1986. They 
fell after the May 1987 IMF agreement and the subsequent arrange- 
ment with the Paris Club (the informal name for a consortium of 
eighteen Western creditor countries) to reschedule Egypt's debts. 

In addition to loans, Egypt was also able to obtain short-term, 
high-interest credits from firms that supplied commodities and ser- 
vices. Egypt had resorted to these credits since the mid-1970s when 
imports soared. Disbursements rose steadily and between 1983 and 
1985 averaged about US$1 .86 billion annually, ranking higher than 
economic grants. Repayments, however, did not keep up with dis- 
bursements and in the late 1980s fell into arrears. Repayment de- 
lays of up to eighteen months and more for supplier credits were 
reported. Because of these delays and the mounting overall debt, 
until the signing of the agreement with the IMF in May 1987, 
Western credit agencies were hesitant to offer cover. 

Debt and Restructuring 

Ironically, in 1990 Egypt found itself heavily indebted as it had 
been more than a century previously. The practice of external bor- 
rowing began with Muhammad Ali, who sought funds to finance, 
among other things, his ambitious development schemes. Significant 
debt began to build up only in the second half of the nineteenth 


The Economy 

century, coinciding with the rise of the export economy. In the 1880s, 
Egypt was unable to repay its debts, and Britain, the main lender, 
used this an excuse to occupy Egypt for the next half century. The 
debt was economically disastrous for Egypt because it consumed 
all the surpluses accumulated during and after World War I, which 
could otherwise have been invested in economic development. 

Egypt emerged from World II, as from World War I, with sub- 
stantial reserves resulting from the goods and services it supplied 
to the Allies and its lower imports because of worldwide shortages. 
The reserves were kept under British control until the end of the 
1940s, when Egypt started to use them to finance imports. They 
practically disappeared in the late 1950s, and Egypt again began 
external borrowing. Still, by the late 1960s debt was not substantial. 

Only with the increased borrowing under Sadat and Mubarak 
did debt become the nagging problem it was in 1990. Debt infor- 
mation was incomplete, and estimates of it varied. Variations resulted 
from the multiplicity of creditors, the private nature of some arrange- 
ments, and the exclusion of debt data from official statistics or the 
showing of lower figures in government budgets. Publicly guaran- 
teed, long-term debt climbed from more than US$3 billion in 1974 
to about US$15.8 billion in 1980, or more than fivefold. During 
the same period, real GDP (at 1980 prices) less than doubled, and 
exports rose threefold. If short-term debts were considered, the gap 
between the growth of debt and that of GDP and exports would 
be greater (see table 12, Appendix). 

In 1988 total external debt was expected to reach US$46 billion 
or about double the amount in 1981 . As a result, civilian debt came 
close to GDP in 1987 and was forecast to surpass it in 1988. Thus, 
Egypt, like many developing countries, entered the final decade of 
the twentieth century with burdensome debt. 

Most of Egypt's debt was owed to other governments or guaran- 
teed by them, especially when military debt was taken into account. 
For example, in 1987 debt to private creditors was about 21 per- 
cent of the civilian total, and debt to multilateral organizations was 
about 17 percent of the civilian total. Prior to the peace treaty with 
Israel in 1979, the largest creditors were Arab countries; since 1979 
the Arabs were replaced by OECD members. In 1987 Egypt owed 
US$10.1 billion to the United States. Of this about US$4.6 billion, 
or about 23 percent of Egypt's combined debt, was military debt. 
Within Egypt itself, the largest debtor was the government and the 
public sector generally. For example, public debt, apart from the 
military made up about 78 percent of the total; the rest was borne 
by private enterprises and banks. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

As debt increased, Egypt became vulnerable to pressure from 
creditors who wanted it to repay the debts and restructure the econ- 
omy. During the 1980s, prolonged, tug-of-war-like negotiations 
occurred between Egypt and various creditors represented by the 
IMF and the Paris Club. 

Before concluding agreements with other creditors, Egypt had 
first to win the endorsement of the IMF on the soundness of its 
financial position. In return for a financial package to ease repay- 
ment terms, the IMF policy requires that a government undertake 
a macroeconomic stabilization program, known as the IMF con- 
ditionality, that touches basically on every aspect of the economy. 
The program consists of two interlinked components, one exter- 
nal and the other internal. The external component applies to the 
reduction of the trade deficit, in Egypt's case through the devalu- 
ation of the Egyptian pound to make exports more competitive. 
The internal component is far-reaching and aimed at minimizing 
the role of the state in the economic process. It calls for, among 
other things, appreciable cuts in the budget deficit, elimination of 
price controls, and the closing of inefficient public enterprises with 
the ultimate goal of privatization. 

Although there was a growing consensus in Egypt on the need 
for reform, many interests conflicted and experts differed on the 
best course. Because of their colonial experience, Egyptians were 
generally sensitive to having their economic policies dictated by 
outsiders. As far back as 1966, Nasser rejected on nationalist 
grounds an IMF "background stabilization program" much more 
modest than subsequent ones. 

The demand for cutting the budget, which would have entailed 
mainly reducing the subsidies of basic commodities, was officially 
resisted as politically destabilizing. Within the cabinet itself, there 
were different voices. For instance, while the minister of agricul- 
ture supported dismantiing price controls so as to raise the incomes 
of his constituency, the farmers, the minister of food and supply 
opposed dismantling them on the ground that lack of such con- 
trols would hurt his main constituency, urban consumers. 

The fear of political instability was not the only reason for 
resistance to restructuring. Politically significant Egyptian groups, 
including public- sector employees, some leading intellectuals, and 
ruling party functionaries, viewed with suspicion attempts to weaken 
drastically the role of government and the public sector. Egypt, 
they said, had a weak state for more than a century and free trade 
for an even longer period, yet the country remained underdevel- 
oped. They pointed to the wasteful economic behavior of the pri- 
vate sector during the infitah and the way this policy widened the 


The Economy 

income gap between rich and poor. Finally, they referred to the 
successes of Japan, the Republic of Korea (South Korea), and Tai- 
wan, where strong partnerships between the state and the private 
sector propelled economic growth. 

Private-sector entrepreneurs themselves were little interested in 
certain aspects of reform. They considered state intervention neces- 
sary in such areas as tariff protection against foreign competition, 
stabilization of input prices, increased savings, and investment in 
infrastructure. Although they wanted to see less red tape and the 
simplification of investment procedures, they were able to turn mar- 
ket restrictions to their advantage through manipulation. Their 
relationship to the public sector was often more symbiotic than ad- 
versarial. For example, in the mid-1980s the poultry industry — 
which had grown astronomically since the mid-1970s as a result 
of private investment by entrepreneurs, government officials, and 
military officers — wanted the government to ban egg imports and 
to limit new farms and emergency low-interest loans to offset what 
it saw as market saturation. Poultry farm owners resorted to a mas- 
sive slaughter of 4 to 5 million chickens to dramatize their demand. 

In spite of these constraints and because of the economic difficul- 
ties and mounting debt and deficit, the government since the 
mid-1980s had no alternative but to come to terms with the IMF 
and its creditors. In the negotiations, disputes often centered on 
the pace and scope of restructuring, not on the need for it. Final- 
ly, after intense bargaining and pressure on the IMF by the Unit- 
ed States, which was concerned about the impact of the Cairo 
security police riots in February 1986, an agreement was signed 
in May 1987. The agreement was considered lenient by IMF stan- 
dards, although not by the Egyptians. For example, it involved 
Egypt's agreement to lower its budget deficit to 10 percent of GDP, 
a ceiling that the government found arbitrary. The IMF allowed 
Egypt to keep the official rate of £E1 = US$1.43 for pricing oil, 
cotton exports, and rice but stressed the need for eventually 
eliminating the multiple exchange-rate system. 

In return, the government was to obtain SDR250 million, or 
about US$327 million, much less than the US$1 .5 billion standby 
credit Egypt had applied for in 1986. More important, the agree- 
ment paved the way for an arrangement with Paris Club creditors 
to alleviate Egypt's debt. Toward the end of May, the Paris Club 
approved a ten-year rescheduling, with a five-year grace period. 
The arrangement also covered arrears outstanding at the end of 
1986, in addition to interest and principal repayments due between 
the beginning of 1987 and June 1988 on all guaranteed debts con- 
tracted before the end of October 1987. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

The government subsequently implemented many changes, includ- 
ing raising energy and food prices, setting higher and market- 
determined prices for farm production with the exception of cotton, 
and trimming budget and trade deficits (see The Role of Govern- 
ment, this ch.). The IMF and Paris Club members, however, were 
not satisfied with the pace of reform and expressed their concern 
that Egypt was delivering much less than it had promised. Egypt 
wanted to extend the period of arrears and payments on publicly 
guaranteed loans to the end of 1989 instead of June 1988 as was 
stipulated in the 1987 agreement with the Paris Club. A new round 
of negotiations began, and an accord with the IMF was anticipat- 
ed in July 1989. The deadline passed inconclusively, and the mara- 
thon bargaining was continuing in early 1990. 

Irrespective of the conclusion of these negotiations, Egypt en- 
tered the closing decade of the twentieth century facing an enor- 
mous economic challenge. Economic growth was unable to keep 
up with that of population, and inflation was eating into the modest 
income of many Egyptians. The government introduced uneven 
reforms in pricing and other policies, but more effective reform 
was needed, especially in the stagnant and outmoded industrial 
field and the notoriously inefficient bureaucracy. Although Egyp- 
tian agricultural yields were respectable, they could be enhanced 
substantially. Revenues from oil, the Suez Canal, workers' remit- 
tances, and tourism — the main sources of foreign currency — were 
expected to grow, if at all, at low rates. Egypt had to propel its 
agriculture and industry forward if it were to achieve a self-sustain- 
ing growth and feed and create jobs for a rapidly growing popu- 

* * * 

Basic data on the Egyptian economy are available in the English- 
language editions of the annual Statistical Yearbook of the Central 
Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics and the more care- 
fully produced quarterly Economic Bulletin of the National Bank of 
Egypt. The World Bank's wealth of statistics on the structure of 
the economy are summed up in the annual World Tables. The In- 
ternational Monetary Fund's publication, Directions of International 
Trade, is a good source for trade statistics, as is its International Finan- 
cial Statistics for finance. Information on agriculture is available in 
the Production Yearbook of the United Nations Food and Agricul- 
ture Organization. 

Two of the most concise and insightful sources on the contem- 
porary Egyptian economy are The Egyptian Economy, 1952-72 by 


The Economy 

Robert Mabro, and Foreign Trade Regimes and Economic Development 
by Bent Hansen and Karim Nashashibi. The latter covers the post- 
World War II period until the late 1960s. Mahmoud Abdel-Fadil's 
The Political Economy of Nasserism gives a rigorous analysis of the 
economy, especially employment, during Nasser's presidency. Un- 
fortunately, no similar sources exist for the Sadat or Mubarak peri- 
ods. The Egypt of Nasser and Sadat by John Waterbury is considered 
the basic text for the 1952-80 political economy. 

Several books offer treatment of specific sectors. Industrializa- 
tion is discussed insightfully in The Industrialization of Egypt, 1939-73 
by Robert Mabro and Samir Radwan. A synthesis of the modern 
history of Egyptian agriculture is given in Egypt 's Agricultural De- 
velopment, 1800-1980 by Alan Richards. The World Bank issues 
occasional policy-oriented studies; one of the most comprehensive 
is Trade, Exchange Rate, and Agricultural Pricing Policies in Egypt (2 
volumes) by Jean-Jacques Dethier. This work also offers a wealth 
of statistics for the period between 1960 and 1985. 

Journalistic updates on the state of the Egyptian economy are 
available in special reports issued by three London-based periodi- 
cals: Economist Intelligence Unit's Country Report: Egypt; Financial 
Times; and Middle East Economic Digest. Finally, the Egyptian Arabic 
language weekly, AlAhram al Iqtisadi is an indispensable source on 
the economic debate within Egypt itself. (For further information 
and complete citations, see Bibliography.) 


Chapter 4. Government and Politics 

Mycerinus (Menkure) and queen, Giza, ca. 2500 B. C. 

THE MODERN EGYPTIAN STATE is the product of a histori- 
cally rooted political culture and of the state-building efforts of its 
founding leaders, Gamal Abdul Nasser and Anwar as Sadat. Egypt 
has been governed by powerful centralized rule since ancient times, 
when the management of irrigated agriculture gave rise to the pha- 
raohs, absolute god-kings. This experience produced a propensity 
toward authoritarian government that has persisted into modern 
times. Although the contemporary Egyptian state remained in 
essence authoritarian, such rule was not accepted unconditional- 
ly. Its legitimacy depended on adherence to certain public expec- 
tations. Egypt's centuries of subordination to foreign rule, its long 
struggle for independence, and its continuing dependency on other 
countries generated a powerful nationalism that made national 
legitimacy crucial to the acceptance of the authoritarian state. 
Moreover, after the Arab invasion in the seventh century A.D., 
many expected the state to rule on behalf of the true faith and com- 
munity and according to Islamic norms of justice; as a result, the 
state sought to legitimize itself in Islamic terms. Finally, in more 
recent years, the spread of political consciousness put rulers under 
growing pressure to accommodate demands for participation. 

The 1952 Revolution against the traditional monarchy, led by 
Gamal Abdul Nasser's group of nationalist-reformist Free Officers, 
gave birth to the contemporary republic. Nasser forged the new 
state, suppressing the rudiments of pluralism and creating a 
president-dominated, military-led authoritarian bureaucratic re- 
gime with a single party and a subordinated parliament, press, and 
judiciary. Nasser's charismatic leadership and the populist achieve- 
ments of the 1952 Revolution — particularly land reform, social wel- 
fare, and a nationalist foreign policy — legitimized the new regime. 
Nasser gave the state a broader base of support than it had hither- 
to enjoyed, a base that embraced a populist coalition of the army, 
the bureaucracy, the middle class, and the masses. 

Nasser's successor, Anwar as Sadat, adapted the state to a "post- 
populist" era. The major vulnerabilities of the Nasser regime were 
its lack of strong support among the Egyptian landed and busi- 
ness classes and, after the 1967 defeat by Israel, its alienation from 
the United States, the superpower whose support was needed to 
resolve the conflict with Israel. Although Sadat assumed power as 
Nasser's vice president and was a veteran of the revolution, he soon 
reoriented the policies of the state to reconcile it with the need for 


Egypt: A Country Study 

support from the Egyptian middle class and for a good relation- 
ship with the United States. While retaining the essential structures 
of the Nasserist state, he carried out a limited political liberaliza- 
tion and an economic and diplomatic infitah (opening or open door; 
see Glossary) to the West. This shifted the state's base of support 
from reliance on Nasser's populist coalition to a reliance on the 
landed and business classes internally and an American alliance 
externally. The political system remained essentially authoritari- 
an but with a greater tolerance of political pluralism than under 
Nasser; thus, parliament, opposition parties, interest groups, and 
the press all enjoyed greater, though still limited, freedom. 

Husni Mubarak, Sadat's vice president, inherited power on the 
basis of constitutional legitimacy at Sadat's death. He consolidated 
Sadat's limited political liberalization and maintained the major 
lines of Sadat's policies while trying to overcome some of their ex- 
cesses and costs. 

As revolutionary legitimacy was eclipsed by the passage of time, the 
legal powers enshrined in the Constitution of 1971 became a more 
important source of legitimacy. The Constitution, a descendant 
of the 1956 constitution drafted under Nasser, largely reinforced 
authoritarian traditions. It established a mixed presidential-par- 
liamentary-cabinet system, but the president is constitutionally the 
center of power. The president is supreme commander, declares 
war, concludes treaties, proposes and vetoes legislation, and may 
rule through decree under emergency powers that have been regu- 
larly delegated by parliament. He appoints the prime minister and 
the cabinet, which may issue "decisions" having the force of law. 
Under the Constitution, the People's Assembly has the power to 
legislate and to nominate the president, and other branches of 
government are responsible to the assembly. But it has never effec- 
tively exercised these constitutional checks on the executive. 

The Dominant Executive and the Power Elite 

The Presidency 

The presidency is the command post of Egypt's dominant ex- 
ecutive branch of government and the linchpin of the political elite. 
Nasser established and assumed the office, endowing it with broad 
legal powers and with his personal charisma. He made it the most 
institutionalized part of the political system, against which all other 
elite institutions — party, parliament, press, even the military — have 
proved impotent. The Constitution of 1971 gives legal expression 
to this reality, vesting vast executive authority in the president. 


Government and Politics 

Succession procedures for the transfer of presidential power ap- 
peared relatively institutionalized since Nasser. The incumbent vice 
president has twice succeeded to the presidency. In each case the 
vice president was a military officer; thus, the line of succession 
stayed within the institution that founded the republic. Formally, 
a single presidential candidate was nominated by parliament and 
confirmed by (unopposed) national plebiscite. In practice, behind- 
the-scenes intraelite politics determined the outcome. Sadat was 
expected to be nominal head of a collective leadership and had to 
defeat a coalition of Nasser's left-wing Free Officer lieutenants to 
assume full control of the office. The backing of most of the profes- 
sional military and of senior bureaucrats recruited from upper-class 
families was important. But the legality with which Nasser had en- 
dowed the office itself was critical to Sadat's victory; it was Sadat's 
legal prerogative that allowed him to purge his opponents from their 
state offices and that rallied the army in support of him. Sadat made 
Husni Mubarak, an air force officer who had distinguished him- 
self in the October 1973 War, his vice president. Although politi- 
cally inexperienced, Mubarak grew in the job. On Sadat's death, 
the political elite closed ranks behind him, and a smooth succes- 
sion took place. Mubarak's 1987 reelection manifested the con- 
tinued institutionalization of presidential authority. Mubarak did 
not appoint a vice president, perhaps reluctant to designate a suc- 
cessor and possible rival so early in his presidency. Had a succes- 
sion crisis arisen, there would have been no obvious successor. 

The president has broad constitutional powers. The president 
appoints vice presidents, prime ministers, and the Council of 
Ministers — the cabinet or "government." He enjoys a vast pow- 
er of patronage that makes legions of officials beholden to him and 
ensures the loyalty and customary deference of the state appara- 
tus. Presidential appointees include army commanders, the heads 
of the security apparatus, senior civil servants, heads of autono- 
mous agencies, governors, newspaper editors, university presidents, 
judges, major religious officials, and public sector managers. 
Through the Council of Ministers, over which he may directly pre- 
side, the president commands the sprawling state bureaucracy and 
can personally intervene at any level to achieve his objectives if 
the chain of command proves sluggish. Because the levers of macro- 
economic policy — banks, the budget, and the large public sector — 
are under government control, broad responsibility for running 
the economy is within the presidential domain. This responsibili- 
ty carries with it heavy burdens, because as head of the state the 
president is expected to provide for the welfare of the vast num- 
bers of people dependent on it. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

A large presidential bureaucracy, managed by a ministerial level 
appointee, is a personal instrument of control over the wider 
bureaucracy. It is made up of personal advisers, troubleshooters, 
and lieutenants with specialized supervisory functions. Under Nas- 
ser it had bureaus for intelligence, economic planning, presiden- 
tial security, administrative control, and foreign affairs. Under 
Sadat it swelled into a small bureaucracy made up of about 4,000 
functionaries, many of them supporting the elaborate entourage 
and presidential household he created. Stretching out from this 
presidential bureaucracy are a multitude of presidentially appointed 
specialized national councils for production, social affairs, science, 
and the like, which bring the state and interest groups together 
under presidential patronage and expand presidential influence into 
every branch of society (see fig. 6). 

The president bears primary responsibility for defense of the 
country and is the supreme commander of the armed forces. Hav- 
ing, to date, always been an ex-officer, he typically enjoys personal 
influence in the military. He presides over the National Security 
Council, which coordinates defense policy and planning, and he 
may assume operational command in time of war. He may declare 
war with the approval (in practice automatically given) of the parlia- 
ment, conclude treaties, and issue decrees on national security af- 
fairs. Foreign policy is a "reserved sphere" of the presidency. 
Presidents have typically been preoccupied with foreign policy and 
have personally shaped it. 

Finally, the president is chief legislator, the dominant source of 
major policy innovation. The president can legislate by decree dur- 
ing "emergencies," a condition loosely defined, and when parlia- 
ment is not in session. He can also put proposals to the people in 
plebiscites that always give such propositions overwhelming ap- 
proval. Finally, the president normally controls a docile majority 
in parliament, which regularly translates his proposals into law. 
His control of parliament stems from his ability to dismiss it at will 
and from his leadership of the ruling party that dominates parlia- 
ment. He also enjoys a legislative veto. 

The President and the Power Elite 

The actual use of presidential power has evolved through the 
changing relationship between the chief executive and the rest of 
the power elite. The style of presidential leadership determined how 
the president controlled the elite. Nasser headed and ruled through 
a tightly knit team of officer-revolutionaries with a certain shared 
vision. Moreover, as a charismatic leader with wide popular sup- 
port, he stood above and balanced off the elites and frequently used 


Government and Politics 

his popular support to curb them. Thus, he was able to make the 
presidency a highly activist, interventionist office in the service of 
a revolution from above that ran roughshod over the interests of 
the dominant classes. He did have to contend with a certain intra- 
elite rivalry. The other senior Free Officers who had helped him 
make the revolution were entitled to be consulted in decision mak- 
ing; many of them served as powerful vice presidents, overseeing 
ministers in various sectors of government activity. Field Marshal 
Abdul Hakim Amir, Nasser's close colleague and the number- two 
man in the regime, came close to making the army his personal 
"fiefdom." But in the end, those who challenged Nasser were 
purged, and generally he enjoyed nearly unquestioned presiden- 
tial authority. 

Sadat transformed the charismatic, activist presidency into a sort 
of "presidential monarchy." His formation of a kind of "royal 
family" of influential relatives in his entourage; the traditional 
legitimacy he resurrected; the essentially conservative objectives 
of his policies; and the use of clientelism and corruption, traditional 
techniques of rule all amounted to a traditionalization of authority. 
The main issue of intraelite politics under Sadat was resistance in- 
side the establishment to the president's drive to reverse many of 
Nasser's policies. The popular support won in the October 1973 
War gave Sadat a free hand during the crucial period of redirec- 
tion (1974-76). He also built a strong client network of politicians 
allowed to enrich themselves by often illicit manipulations of the 
economic opening his policies afforded and, hence, they had a big 
stake in his course. His shrewd patrimonial (see Glossary) manipu- 
lations — the constant rotation of elites in and out of office while 
playing them against each other — also helped him dominate the 
elite. The authoritarian political structure was crucial to Sadat's 
enterprise; the regime, lacking traditions of mass participation, 
largely kept the major decisions inside elite circles where the presi- 
dency was the dominant force. 

Sadat's support also rested on a kind of tacit "social contract" 
with his elite and upper-class supporters under which he had to 
curb the arbitrary power of the state and the presidency. On the 
one hand, Sadat retained freedom in foreign policy, where per- 
sonal impulses often seemed to override professional advice and 
the ultimate powers of the authoritarian presidency were never 
overtly challenged. On the other hand, Sadat relaxed the state's 
control over society and the political arena and curbed the inter- 
ventionist role the presidency had played under Nasser. Although 
Sadat retained the last word, he refrained from intervening in many 
domestic policy matters, allowing the bourgeoisie growing scope 


Egypt: A Country Study 


l- O n 
< uj 9. 


d O > 


o < < 













































ui g 

> UI 

? <75 

LU — I CO 

N < d 

□ z o 

< O Z 

o b 2 

uj < O 

£ z o 



> CC 
- O ui 





9 E 

> H 


111 5 

CO = 




9 t 

UJ 5 


? ui S 

o o 

O z w 

> g gc 

E ui < 

cc u. 

Z u. < 

< o 


—J UJ 
Q. CO 















IVE < 


















z h a 
□ cc a 


Government and Politics 

to advance its interests. Thus, a hybrid of traditional and legal- 
rational authority emerged: a presidential monarchy presiding over 
a power-sharing alliance between the state and its bourgeois con- 
stituency. Sadat's patrimonial excesses and his occasionally arbi- 
trary imposition of major policies retarded the consolidation of 
this power-sharing experiment, but it was institutionalized under 
his successor. 

Under Mubarak, the authoritarian presidency remained the cen- 
terpiece of the state, although he was a less dominant figure than 
his predecessors. He did not create an elite core comparable in pow- 
er to the ones they created; he lacked the mission and revolution- 
ary comrades of a Nasser and the patronage network of a Sadat. 
Indeed, he came to power amid at least two power centers, the 
military and the "Sadatists" in the elite. Although he lessened his 
dependence on them by bringing in conservative Nasserites, back- 
ing technocratic elements in the bureaucracy, and encouraging the 
political opposition, he carried out no massive purge of the elite. 

Mubarak has used his power in the least activist way of Egypt's 
three presidents. In contrast to Nasser and Sadat who sought to re- 
shape Egypt, Mubarak sought stability and incremental change and 
lacked the ideological vision and political will to tackle boldly the 
country's intractable problems. Much more than his predecessors, 
Mubarak governed by intraelite consensus, a cautious balancing 
of contrary pressures and demands. He also delegated considera- 
ble authority to his ministers; indeed, he sometimes remained above 
the fray, refraining from personally identifying with or, in the face 
of opposition, strongly backing some of his own government's poli- 
cies. In the running of government, a pragmatic managerial style 
stressing legality and technocracy replaced the patrimonialism and 
personalism of Sadat's rule. Foreign policy, made in consultation 
with professional diplomats, was no longer the victim of presiden- 
tial impulse. In some ways, Mubarak's caution made him a man 
appropriate to a time of rising constraints on state power. Having 
no "mission" comparable to that of Nasser or Sadat, Mubarak 
could afford to be more tolerant of opposition, and because his 
legitimacy rested squarely on legality, he had a greater interest in 
respecting the law. The scope of presidential power clearly nar- 
rowed, but, being less threatening, this power was also less chal- 
lenged than under Nasser and Sadat. Indeed, Mubarak's personal 
integrity and genuine commitment to limited democratization made 
him the most widely acceptable leader in a regime enjoying little 
popular trust. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

The Prime Minister, the Council of Ministers, and the Policy- 
making Process 

The prime minister is the president's primary lieutenant, charged 
with implementing his policies through the bureaucracy. Although 
the prime minister and his cabinet are formally accountable to 
parliament and are expected to submit to legislative questioning, 
they were, in practice, appointed and removed by the president, 
not by parliament. Under Nasser, when key Free Officers headed 
strategic ministries, the cabinet was a center of some power, but 
subsequently it became merely the staff of the president. Although 
the president might preside over cabinet meetings, the cabinet was 
not a collegial decision-making body; instead, the president tend- 
ed to make key decisions in ad hoc consultations with ministers 
and advisers in a given issue area. 

Egypt's policy-making process was very much dominated by the 
executive branch, and the heart of the process was the interaction 
between the presidency and the Council of Ministers. This top ex- 
ecutive level decided on all policy proposals, whether they origi- 
nated in the bureaucracy, with influential personalities, or with 
interest groups. It was also the arena in which all major political 
decisions were made, relatively free from institutionalized con- 
straints or pressure from other parts of the political system or the 
public. Major policy innovations were typically launched by the 
president, perhaps under the influence of close personal advisers 
or the pressure of a major problem or crisis and most likely after 
consultation with ministerial experts. Particularly when a major 
policy decision was in the making, the president might encourage 
opinion groups to develop in the cabinet. These groups would ad- 
vocate different policy options, but although the policies might seri- 
ously affect different segments of society, the opinion groups were 
not really representatives of those segments. Moreover, the presi- 
dent had the first and the last word in deciding among the groups. 

The cabinet itself was, nevertheless, an arena of intraelite poli- 
tics because presidents, engrossed in major political decisions, often 
left the day-to-day business of government to their ministers, in- 
tervening only to give general instructions or when something went 
wrong. Such mid-level policy making might be set in motion by 
the proposals of individual ministries, often generated by high civil 
servants or even by the interests of persons associated with a par- 
ticular ministry, such as public sector managers or the various 
professional syndicates. These proposals might set off factional bar- 
gaining within the cabinet and high bureaucracy. Elite factions 
might take the form of shillas, small groups bound by friendship 


Government and Politics 

or family ties, heading client networks that stretched down through 
the bureaucracy and competed for control of offices and the per- 
sonal and venal benefits that .often went with them. 

Typically, there was a split in the cabinet between presidential 
appointees and the clients the prime minister brought on board. 
In the late 1970s, the cabinet was reportedly split between follow- 
ers of Vice President Mubarak and Prime Minister Mustafa Khalil. 
Sometimes factionalism took the form of bureaucratic rivalries be- 
tween ministries over programs, resources, and jurisdictions; such 
bureaucratic struggles decided a good part of "who got what" in 
a country where the state sector was still at the center of the econ- 
omy. As societal interests became stronger at the expense of govern- 
ment, policy making came more often to take the form of "trial 
balloons" in which the government or a faction of ministers tested 
public reaction to an initiative and often backed down if opposi- 
tion was too strong. If intraelite conflict could not be settled in the 
cabinet or if a ministerial initiative invited excessive public reac- 
tion, the president was likely to intervene, perhaps dismissing a 
particular minister or faction. 

The cabinet was also empowered to plan, coordinate, and con- 
trol the work of the ministries in implementing policy, and to fol- 
low up, evaluate, and inspect policy implementation. Toward these 
ends, it was divided into two layers, with an inner cabinet of deputy 
prime ministers responsible for coordinating several functionally 
related ministries in the full cabinet that composed the outer lay- 
er. The independent Central Auditing Agency was responsible for 
financial control. 

The Road to Power: Recruitment and Composition of the Elite 

Within the Egyptian elite, a core elite had even more power than 
the broader ministerial elite. The overwhelming dominance of 
presidential power in Egypt meant that influence flowed, above 
all, from closeness to the president; his confidants, whether they 
held high office or not, were usually counted among the core elite. 

Under Nasser, these men were fellow military revolutionaries 
such as Abdul Hakim Amir, Anwar as Sadat, Kamal ad Din Hu- 
sayn, Abdul Latif Baghdadi, Zakariyya Muhi ad Din, and Ali 
Sabri. Several prominent civilians, such as press magnate Mo- 
hamed Hassanain Heikal and industry czar Aziz Sidqi, also had 
influence on the president and exerted power in their own domains. 
But the military clearly dominated the state, and most technocrats 
were mere executors of policy. Between the 1952 Revolution and 
the late Sadat era, however, there was a continual attrition in the 
ranks of the Free Officers; many fell out with Nasser, many were 


Egypt: A Country Study 

purged by Sadat during the succession struggle with Ali Sabri, and 
others retired thereafter. Of the twenty- six Free Officers political- 
ly active in 1970, only eight were absorbed into Sadat's ruling 
group, whereas a number of others emerged as leaders of the politi- 
cal opposition to his regime, notably Khalid Muhi ad Din on the 
left and Kamal ad Din Husayn in the nationalist center. 

Under Sadat the top elite ceased to be dominated by the mili- 
tary and was transformed into a much more heterogeneous group. 
To be sure, certain old Free Officer colleagues and several top gener- 
als remained in the inner circle. Vice President Mubarak was a 
member of the inner core. Among other officers in the top elite, 
generals Ahmad Ismail Ali, Abdul Ghani al Gamasi, and Kamal 
Hassan Ali played important and extended roles. But civilians far 
outnumbered the military. Prime ministers such as Abdul Aziz 
Hijazi, Mamduh Salim, and Mustafa Khalil enjoyed real power 
during their tenures. Minister of Foreign Affairs Ismail Fahmi was 
a close confidant of the president until they fell out over Sadat's 
trip to Jerusalem. Interior ministers such as Mamduh Salim and 
Nabawi Ismail were key members of the elite in a regime plagued 
by constant dissidence. Certain minister- technocrats enjoying in- 
fluence over key decisions or sectors belonged to the core elite; 
among these were Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs 
Abdul Munim Qaysuni, long-time Minister of Petroleum Ahmad 
Izz ad Din Hilal, and Minister of Power Ahmad Sultan. But it was 
men such as Osman Ahmad Osman (also seen as Uthman Ahmad 
Uthman) and Sayyid Marii (also seen as Sayyid Marei), represen- 
tatives of the business and agrarian bourgeoisies, who seemed to 
have enjoyed the most intimate confidence of the president, whether 
they held top office or not. 

Osman was perhaps the second most powerful man in Sadat's 
Egypt. A multimillionaire capitalist, he and his family presided over 
a huge business empire spanning the public and private sectors. 
He held office for a time, as minister of reconstruction, but his 
relatives were in and out of a multitude of public offices. Through 
the marriage of a son to one of Sadat's daughters, he was virtually 
incorporated into the president's family and appeared to use his 
influence to favor business in general as well as his own fortunes. 
Another influential member of Sadat's "family' ' by marriage was 
Sayyid Marii, a technocrat from a landowning family. He had 
presided over Nasser's agrarian reform, but in the 1970s he helped 
steer Sadat toward both political and economic liberalization. He 
ran the official party and the parliament on Sadat's behalf for ex- 
tended periods and was a force behind the multiparty initiative. 


President Husni Mubarak 
Courtesy Embassy of Egypt, 

President Mubarak opening 
the People's Assembly 
in the early 1980s 
Courtesy Embassy of Egypt, 

Egypt: A Country Study 

Mubarak tried to distance himself from these core Sadatists, and 
many were pushed from the center of power. Mubarak's inner core 
was headed by two advisers in the presidency with diplomatic service 
backgrounds. Usamah al Baz, a former diplomat who directed the 
president's Office for Political Affairs and was reputedly a secret 
Nasserite, or supporter of Arab socialism, seemed to enjoy politi- 
cal influence with the president; Mustafa Faqi was another close 
adviser. Ismat Abdul Majid's extended tenure as minister of for- 
eign affairs indicated that he had the trust of the president and gave 
him considerable influence in the foreign policy bureaucracy. Yusuf 
Wali, a former agricultural bureaucrat, headed the ruling party 
and was Mubarak's chief political troubleshooter. 

After the dismissal of Kamal Hassan Ali, a general of conserva- 
tive proclivities who had served Sadat, Mubarak's prime ministers 
were technocrats trained in economics and lacking personal politi- 
cal bases. Ali Lutfi was a long-time minister of finance, and Atif 
Sidqi was a top state auditor. Mubarak generally upgraded the role 
of technocrats in his inner circle at the expense of the ''wheeler- 
dealer" politicians of the Sadat era. On the one hand, Atif Ubayd, 
a minister of cabinet affairs backed by the United States, was 
thought to be prime ministerial material but was passed over; on 
the other hand, officials who served Nasser but were pushed out 
by Sadat made a certain comeback. Still, the infitah bourgeoisie 
who supported and benefited from Sadat's rule remained power- 
ful in the Mubarak regime, particularly entrenched in the inter- 
stices of state and business. One sign of their continued power was 
their ability to block attempts to legalize a Nasserist party. The 
continuing coercive base of the state was reflected in three major 
figures close to the center of power. Field Marshal Abdul Halim 
Abu Ghazala was long reputed to be the number-two man in the 
regime and was said to have been offered the vice presidency in 
acknowledgment of the fact. The hardline face of the regime was 
presented by tough and disliked ministers of interior, notably Has- 
san Abu Basha and Zaki Badr, whose campaigns against the op- 
position contained elements of dissent yet drew the heat away from 
the president. Mubarak's ability to dismiss both top army and police 
generals indicated the consolidation of his control over the elite. 

Because the command posts of the bureaucracy were levers of 
power and patronage in Egypt, the cabinet as a whole could be 
taken as the second rank of the top elite, just below the core around 
the president. Recruitment into the cabinet remained the main road 
into the elite, and arrival there was either an opportunity to build 
power or a confirmation of seniority and influence in the bureaucra- 
cy or military. Moreover, the formation of the cabinet was a key 


Government and Politics 

opportunity for coopting into the regime important personalities 
and interests from outside the state apparatus. 

The change in the composition of cabinets from the Nasser era 
to the post-Nasser period indicated a shift in the paths to power. 
Under Nasser, the military, and particularly members of the Free 
Officers, constituted a privileged recruitment pool from which stra- 
tegic ministries were filled, although apolitical technocrats recruited 
from the bureaucracy and the universities also filled a significant 
proportion of ministerial posts. Under Sadat and Mubarak, the 
military declined as a main recruitment channel into the cabinet. 
Whereas the military supplied one-third of the ministerial elite and 
filled 40 percent of ministerial positions under Nasser, in Sadat's 
post- 1973 "infitah governments," military representation dropped 
to about 10 percent; the percentage remained limited under 

It was still possible for prominent officers to attain high political 
office, however. The minister of defense position, a preserve of a 
senior general, remained one of the most powerful posts in the re- 
gime and could be a springboard to wider political power. Gener- 
al Kamal Hassan Ali moved from minister of defense to minister 
of foreign affairs and finally to prime minister under Sadat and 
Mubarak. Perhaps the single most important ladder to power un- 
der Sadat was the combination of an engineering degree with a 
career in the bureaucracy and public sector. Persons with such back- 
grounds made up around one-fourth of Sadat's ministers after the 
initiation of infitah and seemed to be the chief beneficiaries of the 
decline of military dominance in politics. The relative eclipse of 
the army was also paralleled by the rise of professional police officers 
into the top elite. One, Mamduh Salim, became prime minister, 
and others wielded great power as ministers of interior and ministers 
of local government. Academia was an important channel of recruit- 
ment in all three regimes. Professionals, such as doctors and law- 
yers, and, increasingly, private business people became eligible for 
recruitment by service in party and parliamentary politics and made 
up about one-fourth of the ministerial elite in the late Sadat era. 
Although the roads to power diversified after Nasser, access by mid- 
dle class military officers probably narrowed during the period be- 
tween his era of rule and post-Nasser Egypt, which upper- and 
upper-middle class personalities dominated. 

Elite Ideology 

A dominant ideology has generally bound the Egyptian politi- 
cal elite, but its content changed significantly over time. Under 
Nasser this ideology was revolutionary nationalism, but thereafter 


Egypt: A Country Study 

the ideology of the 1952 Revolution was gradually replaced by a 
new conservative consensus that reflected the interests of an estab- 
lishment with no interest in further radical change. Sadat pioneered 
this ideological transformation via the October Working Paper, 
which outlined his view of Egypt's new course after the October 
1973 War; through a "de-Nasserization" propaganda campaign 
launched in the mid-1970s; and by subsequent efforts to revive the 
legitimacy of capitalism and to justify his Western alignment. Under 
Mubarak, Nasser's heritage was symbolically revered, but Sadat's 
revision of that heritage had by no means been reversed. 

Nasserism was built on Egypt's opposition to "imperialist in- 
fluence" in the Arab world and on a belief in the benefits of pan- 
Arab unity. Nationalism required the creation of a strong state with 
a powerful military and the mission of defending the Arab world 
against imperialism and Zionism. Under Sadat, Arab nationalist 
challenges to Western interests and to Israel were replaced by a 
stress on cooperation with the Western powers and on regional 
peace. For a period in the late Sadat era when Egypt's separate 
peace with Israel isolated the country from the other Arab states, 
a palpable anti-Arabism radiated from elite circles. Sadat insisted 
that the attempts of the Arab rulers to ostracize Egypt were doomed 
because they had no practical alternative to Egypt's course and 
Egypt remained the heart of the Arab world. Egypt's role was now 
to lead the Arabs to peace, and the treaty with Israel was a first 
step toward an overall just peace. Under Mubarak the Nasserist 
vision of Egyptian leadership of the Arabs was again vigorously 
promoted. But far from being a promoter of radical nationalism, 
Egypt weighed in on the side of moderation and stability in the 
Arab world. 

The elite's conception of the proper nature of Egyptian society 
underwent a considerable change after the Nasser era. Under Nasser 
Egypt was seen as a revolutionary society in which the reduction 
of inherited inequalities was a major ideal. In the economic sphere, 
Nasser advocated Arab socialism. This policy laid heavy stress on 
state planning and the public sector as the engines of economic 
development and guarantors of national self-sufficiency and eco- 
nomic independence. The state also assumed responsibility for en- 
suring the basic needs of the people and for an equitable distribution 
of wealth. Several populist reforms redistributed national resources 
to the benefit of the middle and lower classes. 

Under Sadat socialism was denounced as a vehicle of envy and 
extremism; instead, Sadat promoted a traditional concept in which 
society was seen as an extension of the patriarchal family and charac- 
terized by harmony among classes and belief in religion. In the 


Government and Politics 

economic sphere, the elite argued that the state had assumed too 
many responsibilities at the expense of private initiative. Capitalism 
had to be revived and the public sector, no longer seen as the cut- 
ting edge of development, had to be reduced to a mere support 
for private enterprise. Egalitarianism and redistribution were 
thought to have gone too far, to the detriment of economic growth. 
Private initiative had to be liberated from stultifying state controls; 
those who distinguished themselves were to be allowed rewards and 
individuals with capital permitted to "earn freely without limits." 
The pursuit of self-interest, formerly castigated, was now relegiti- 
mized. Capitalist development, it was argued, would bring "trickle- 
down" benefits for the masses in place of their dependence on 
state- supported programs. 

This ideological thrust, in part a reaction against Nasserism, was, 
however, tempered by a more moderate strain of thinking that 
became more influential under Mubarak. The moderate view was 
not convinced that laissez-faire was the cure to all of Egypt's ills; 
it insisted on a continuing role for state regulation and progressive 
taxation to curb the inegalitarian tendencies of the market and the 
social conflict and political instability that these tendencies gener- 
ated. Indeed, under Mubarak a limited Nasserist restoration could 
be seen in the return to the concept of the state as autonomous 
guardian of the public interest, in the continuing defense of the 
public sector, and in a new stress on bringing the excesses of the 
infitah bourgeoisie under state control. Mubarak sought a balance 
between liberal and statist factions in the elite, rejected calls to dis- 
mantle the public sector, and called for an "equal partnership" 
between the public and private sectors. Generally, the elite agreed 
on the need to avoid both the "anarchic individualism" of unregu- 
lated capitalism and the class conflict promoted by Marxism. 

Finally, in the political sphere, Nasser had created a powerful 
authoritarian state; this concentration of power was legitimized by 
the charisma of the leader and the revolutionary mission of the coun- 
try. Under Sadat the legitimacy formula was changed. On the one 
hand, it was retraditionalized as Sadat sought to infuse his office 
with patriarchal authority and the aura of religion. He promoted 
himself as the "believing president" and was constantly seen at 
prayer; more and more, the state sought to legitimize its authority 
in Islamic terms. But on the other hand, both Sadat and Mubarak 
also sought to root legitimacy in constitutionalism and democracy. 
Egypt had moved, Sadat declared, to a state of laws and institu- 
tions rather than to one of people. Under Mubarak democratiza- 
tion became the main legitimacy formula. Nevertheless, it was 
limited. The masses were held not to be prepared for full-blown 


Egypt: A Country Study 

democracy; lacking sufficient responsibility and consciousness, they 
were susceptible to 4 'alien" (leftist) or "fanatical" (Islamist) ideas. 
Strong presidential tutelage, the careful channeling of political dis- 
course through regime-managed institutions, and limits on overt 
attempts to "incite" the masses were needed for the sake of social 
peace. By the Mubarak era, this new conservative consensus seemed 
to bind the elite, effacing ideological divisions. But the consensus 
did not prevent elite rivalries over personal power or disagreements 
over specific issues. 

Politics among Elites 

Military Politics 

A major issue of Egypt's elite politics was the role of the mili- 
tary in the state. Nasser's Free Officers founded republican govern- 
ment and led Egypt's 1952 Revolution from above. Presidents 
continued to be ex-military men. But as Egypt entered a postrevolu- 
tionary phase, Sadat successfully demilitarized the state and depoliti- 
cized the officer corps. Without losing control of the military, Sadat 
was able to change it from the dominant leadership group in the 
state into a professional force subordinate to legal authority, radi- 
cally curtailing its policy-making role, even in defense matters. This 
change was paralleled by a deradicalization that ended the army's 
role as "defender of the revolution" and as defender of the Arab 
nation against imperialism. 

Long-term developments that were maturing before Sadat took 
power facilitated his effort. As many Free Officers acquired wealth 
and married into great families, they were deradicalized. If the Free 
Officers had originally been the vanguard of the rising middle class 
against the traditional upper class, by the late 1970s senior officers 
had become part of a new establishment. Many officers blamed 
the 1967 defeat on Nasser, the Soviet Union, and socialist mea- 
sures. They resented Nasser's scapegoating of the high command 
for the army's failures. In addition, because the defeat could plau- 
sibly be blamed on military involvement in politics, it discredited 
the military's claim to political leadership and enhanced the pres- 
tige of nonpolitical professional officers. Nasser stressed professional 
competence in the post- 1967 reconstruction of the army, and many 
officers themselves became impatient with political involvement that 
could detract from the mission of defending the front and recover- 
ing the land and honor lost in 1967. 

The fall of scores of politicized officers in the succession strug- 
gle with Sadat — in particular, the group around Marshal Abdul 
Hakim Amir after the June 1967 War (Arab-Israeli war, also known 


Government and Politics 

as the Six-Day War) and the Ali Sabri group — removed the most 
powerful and politicized Free Officers and dissipated remaining 
radical sentiment in the ranks of the officer corps. In the succes- 
sion struggle, Minister of War General Muhammad Fawzi stood 
with the leftist Sabri faction and tried to mobilize the military against 
Sadat by accusing him of selling out to the United States. Chief 
of Staff General Muhammad Sadiq and the rest of the top brass, 
however, stood with Sadat and neutralized Fawzi. No doubt the 
military's stand was affected by the unpopularity of Sabri' s effort 
to build up the state party as a counterweight to the military, his 
identification with the unpopular Soviet advisory mission, and 
Sadat's promise to reinstate officers unfairly blamed for the 1967 
defeat. But the long tradition of presidential authority established 
under Nasser seemed the decisive factor in rallying the professional 
military to Sadat's side. And this victory went far to reinforce the 
legal supremacy of presidential authority over all other state insti- 

Nevertheless, Sadat was thereafter embroiled in and won two 
other power struggles with top generals who contested his defense 
and foreign policies. In 1972 General Sadiq, then minister of war, 
seemed to challenge presidential prerogatives. Sadiq considered 
himself entided, given his role in Sadat's victory and his Free Officer 
status, to a share in decision-making power. He used rewards, pro- 
motions, and the mobilization of anti- Soviet sentiment in the army 
to build a personal power base. Sadat viewed Sadiq as a mere mem- 
ber of his staff and saw his anti- Soviet advocacy and his links with 
Libya's Colonel Muammar al Qadhafi, whom Sadat deeply dis- 
trusted, as encroachments on presidential authority. Most serious, 
Sadiq objected to Sadat's plans for a limited war in Sinai to seize 
a strip of land across the Suez Canal as a prelude to negotiations 
with Israel. Believing Egypt unprepared for such an ambitious ven- 
ture, he argued, in a tense meeting of the high command, against 
any military action, a course untenable for Sadat. Sadat's move 
against Sadiq was a classic example of his strategy of control over 
the military. He waited until he had first expelled the Soviet ad- 
visers, thus winning for himself the acclaim of anti-Soviet elements 
and taking the wind out of Sadiq' s sails. He obtained the support 
of other top commanders, especially Chief of Staff Saad ad Din 
Shazli, who had quarreled with Sadiq over authority in the high 
command, rallied the field commanders by accusing Sadiq of ig- 
noring orders to prepare for war, and quickly replaced Sadiq with 
General Ahmad Ismail Ali, a personal friend who lacked political 
ambition. With the help of these allies, Sadat foiled a pro-Sadiq 
coup attempt. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Not long after, Sadat faced another challenge, this time from 
General Shazli. The two men quarreled over the conduct of the 
October 1973 War, each holding the other responsible for the Israeli 
breakthrough onto the west bank of the Suez Canal. After the war, 
Shazli was a leading opponent of the decision to rely on the Unit- 
ed States at the cost of weakening Egypt's military ability to take 
action. Sadat rallied the support of other top officers against Shazli, 
including then Minister of War Ismail, Air Force Commander Hus- 
ni Mubarak, and Chief of Operations General Abdul Ghani Gama- 
si. Shazli enjoyed considerable support in the military but either 
would not or could not mobilize it before the high command deci- 
mated his followers in a wave of purges from corps and division 
commanders on down. While some of his top generals were in the 
future to disagree with Sadat's policies, none would again overtly 
challenge them, and when he chose to dismiss them, they offered 
no resistance. 

The army, however, was not free of disaffection. Some junior 
officers who had risked their lives in the "crossing" of the Suez 
Canal believed Sadat had sold out the gains won on the battlefield. 
There were recurring signs of Nasserite and Islamic tendencies in 
the ranks thereafter. But most officers remained loyal for several 
reasons: the legitimacy Sadat won in the October 1973 War, in 
which the army had redeemed its lost honor; the realization that 
the alternative to Sadat might be another war in which this gain 
might be sacrificed; and the privileges and new American weapons 
Sadat lavished on the officer corps. The stake in infitah business 
some officers acquired, the acceptance of professionalism among 
most senior officers, and Sadat's practice of rotating senior com- 
manders had, by the end of his presidency, seemingly reduced the 
military from leaders of the regime to one of its main pillars. 

Under Mubarak the military remained a powerful corporate actor 
in the political system, and the case of Minister of Defense Abdul 
Halim Abu Ghazala manifested both the power and limits of the 
military establishment. Mubarak was initially less careful than Sadat 
to rotate military chieftains and to balance them with rival officers 
or with strong civilian politicians. As a result, Abu Ghazala, an 
ambitious politicized and conservative general, appeared to establish 
unprecedented power and acknowledged status as the number-two 
man in the regime. He positioned himself as champion of arms 
spending, resisting all decreases in the defense budget and push- 
ing for greater autonomy for the armed forces in the political sys- 
tem. He widened the role of the army in the economy, making 
it a font of patronage, subcontracting to the private sector, and 
establishing close relations between the Egyptian arms industry and 


Government and Politics 

United States arms suppliers. Abu Ghazala also presided over the 
growth of privileged facilities for the military, a development that 
made him something of a hero in the ranks. He appeared to stake 
out positions independent of the president, apparently objecting 
to Mubarak's soft-line handling of the Achille Lauro terrorist inci- 
dent in October 1985. Whereas the president sought to step back 
from the close alliance with Washington, Abu Ghazala was known 
for his intimate connections to influential Americans. 

In 1987 the army had to be called out when the riots of the secu- 
rity police left the government otherwise defenseless. Having saved 
the regime, Abu Ghazala seemed to have strengthened his posi- 
tion. He even carried influence in the appointment of cabinet 
ministers. But Abu Ghazala lacked the crucial control over mili- 
tary appointments needed in order to turn the army into a per- 
sonal fiefdom; Mubarak, waking up to the danger, had by 1987 
positioned his own men as chief of staff and as minister of war 
production. Perhaps aided by Abu Ghazala' s loss of United States 
support over an arms smuggling scandal, Mubarak had no difficulty 
removing him from his post in 1989. Generally, Mubarak tried to 
curb military aggrandizement that diminished the civilian sector. 
The professionalization of the officer corps, its tradition of respect 
for legal legitimacy, and the reluctance of an army lacking in na- 
tional vision or ambition to assume responsibility for Egypt's 
problems made it unlikely that any top general could carry the 
officer corps in an overt challenge to Mubarak. 

The Politics of Economic Strategy 

The most important decision taken by the Egyptian government 
since Nasser was Sadat's infitah to foreign and domestic private cap- 
ital. While the stagnation of the early 1970s raised the issue of eco- 
nomic reform, the decision to implement infitah did not take place 
in a political vacuum. A number of different elite factions prescribed 
different solutions to the economic problems. A handful of Marxists 
favored a "deepening" of the socialist experiment. Another small 
group called for a rapid move to free-market capitalism. The third, 
statist (see Glossary) trend, led by Prime Minister Aziz Sidqi, stood 
for a controlled role for private and foreign capital compatible with 
the dominance of the public sector. In May 1973, Sadat dismissed 
Sidqi, who was an influential possible rival associated with the Nas- 
ser era, and before long outstanding leftists, such as Minister of Plan- 
ning Ismail Sabri Abdullah, were also forced out. The dominant 
thinking that emerged advocated creation of a new foreign sector, 
restriction of the public sector to large industry and infrastructure, 
and the opening of all other sectors to private capital. Some of 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Sadat's closest confidants, major figures of the Egyptian bourgeoisie 
such as Osman Ahmad Osman and Sayyid Marii, played major 
roles in swinging him toward this option. The legitimacy won in 
the October 1973 War gave him the strength to make this break 
with Nasserism. 

Egypt's state-dominated economy, Sadat declared, was too bur- 
dened by military spending and bureaucratic inertia to mobilize 
the resources for an economic recovery. But postwar conditions, 
namely the diplomatic opening to the United States and the new 
petrodollars in Arab hands, presented a unique opportunity to spark 
a new economic take-off combining Western technology, Arab cap- 
ital, and Egyptian labor. 

An infitah would also consolidate Sadat's support among the 
Egyptian landed and business classes and among the state elite who 
had enriched themselves in office and were seeking security and 
investment outlets for their new wealth. In addition, Sadat viewed 
infitah as essential to winning United States commitment to Egypt's 
recovery of the Sinai Peninsula from Israel. 

Abdul Aziz Hijazi, a long-time minister of finance and liberal 
economist with links to Western and Arab capital, was appointed 
prime minister in 1974, charged with implementing the infitah. To 
neutralize resistance inside the state, Sadat encouraged a "de- 
Nasserization" campaign in which all those who had grievances 
against socialism publicly attacked it for having ruined the econo- 
my. As the emerging ills of infitah — inflation and corruption — 
generated discontent over the new course, Hijazi was sacked, and 
Mamduh Salim, Sadat's police "strong man," took over as prime 
minister with a mission to push ahead with infitah, overruling those 
who were obstructing it and those who were abusing it. 

Once infitah was established as Egypt's economic strategy, intra- 
elite conflicts centered on its proper scope and management. These 
conflicts typically pitted liberalizing economists, who were convinced 
that a fully capitalist economy would be more efficient than an econ- 
omy incorporating a public sector, against more statist-minded 
bureaucrats and state managers, who wanted to reform, rather than 
to dismantle, the public sector. The latter were often allied with 
politicians fearful of public reaction to the rollback of populist 
measures such as subsidies and public-sector employment. One 
major episode in this conflict came in 1976 over pressures from 
the International Monetary Fund (IMF — see Glossary) and for- 
eign banks to cut subsidies and devalue the Egyptian pound (for 
value of the Egyptian pound — see Glossary) as necessary steps in 
the liberalization of the economy. Sadat's minister of economy, 
Zaki Shafii, and his minister of finance, Ahmad Abu Ismail, fearful 


Government and Politics 

of the consequences on the mass standard of living, urged him to 
resist pressures for rapid reform. But other economists, chief among 
them Abdul Munim Qaysuni, argued that Egypt could not afford 
costly welfare programs if it were to revitalize its productive bases. 
Top Western bankers, such as David Rockefeller and William Simon, 
urged Sadat to go beyond half measures if he wanted to make the 
infitah a success. Sadat overruled his own ministers and replaced 
them with a new team headed by Qaysuni, who began to cut the 
subsidies. But decision makers had misjudged their political en- 
vironment. The subsidy cuts triggered the 1977 food riots, which 
shattered much of the support Sadat had carefully built up. The 
government backed down and did not again attempt such a radi- 
cal cut in the social safety net for the poor. 

Managing infitah remained the major problem of public policy 
under Mubarak. Rather than producing a dynamic capitalist al- 
ternative to Nasserite statism, infitah had stimulated a consump- 
tion boom that put Egypt in debt and made it heavily dependent 
on external revenues, which declined in the mid-1980s, plunging 
the country into economic crisis. Mubarak insisted that infitah would 
be reformed, not reversed, but the government's freedom of action 
was limited by conflicting domestic constraints. The interests created 
under Nasser remained obstacles to capitalist rationalization and 
belt-tightening. The public sector was still the main engine of in- 
vestment, and public sector managers and unionized labor tena- 
ciously defended it. The bureaucracy, employing a large portion 
of the middle class, was a formidable constituency. Meanwhile, 
Egypt's huge army had not been demobilized, and, indeed, Sadat 
had bought its acquiescence to his policy by replacing weapons from 
the Soviet Union with more expensive arms from the United States, 
for which the military showed a voracious appetite. Marshal Abu 
Ghazala rejected demands by Prime Minister Ali Lutfi that he pay 
off Egypt's military debts from revenues of arms sales overseas; 
instead he plowed funds into subsidized apartments, shops, and 
sports clubs for the officer corps. Populist "rights" acquired under 
Nasser had grown into a tacit social contract by which the govern- 
ment provided subsidized food to the masses in return for their 
tolerance of growing inequality. The contrast between the conspic- 
uous new wealth and the mass poverty generated a moral malaise, 
making Egypt's debt a political issue. ' ' We're asked to pay the debt, ' ' 
chanted demonstrators in 1986, "while they live in palaces and vil- 
las." Thus, attacking populist policies seemed likely to fuel Islamist 
political activism. 

Infitah had itself, however, created interests resistant to reform. A 
larger and richer bourgeoisie was unprepared to give up opportunities 


Egypt: A Country Study 

for enrichment or to trim its level of consumption. Any reversal 
of the course that so favored this class would have cost the regime 
its strongest social support. Indeed, the increasing power of the 
bourgeoisie was manifest in its successful veto of several govern- 
ment reform initiatives. Prime Minister Ali Lutfi was expected to 
produce difficult reforms but was stymied by powerful business in- 
terests. The ability of the regime to raise domestic revenues to cope 
with the financial imbalance was limited because those who could 
pay represented the government's own support base. Thus, when 
importers staged demonstrations against increased customs duties, 
the government rescinded the duties, and the ruling party 
parliamentary caucus turned back its own government's proposal 
to tax lucrative urban real estate interests. 

Caught between rich and poor, the regime opted for incremen- 
talism. It gradually shaved subsidies, replacing the one piaster (see 
Glossary — about one United States cent) loaf of bread with a sup- 
posedly better quality, higher priced loaf; raising electricity prices; 
and eliminating subsidies on feed corn. The regime also partially 
reformed the exchange rate and raised taxes on imported luxuries. 
But, unable to undertake radical reform, it chiefly concentrated 
on negotiations with creditors for a rescheduling of debts, lower 
interest rates, and new loans to support the balance of payments, 
merely postponing the day of reckoning. 

The growing power of the bourgeoisie and the determination 
of Mubarak's state to maintain its independence from this class 
was reflected in another case of economic policy making, a battle 
over control of foreign currency. The government wanted this con- 
trol in order to protect the value of the Egyptian pound. In 1985 
Minister of Economy Mustafa Said tried to close down black-market 
money changers who absorbed most workers' remittances but was 
dismissed when foreign currency dried up and business demand- 
ed his head. In 1986 the Lutfi government fell because of a bid 
by the governor of the Central Bank, Ali Nijm, to rein in the Islam- 
ic investment companies that also dealt in foreign currency. The 
new power of this rising independent bourgeoisie resulted from its 
ability to disrupt the economy, its payoffs to the press, and its con- 
nections to the political opposition and inside the elite itself. In 1988 
Prime Minister Atif Sidqi personally led the government's efforts 
while the companies mobilized the Muslim Brotherhood (Al Ikh- 
wan al Muslimun; also known as the Brotherhood) and the New 
Wafd Party in defense of the private sector. Aided by financial scan- 
dals that damaged depositor confidence, the government brought 
the companies under its regulative sway, but they retained con- 
siderable autonomy. Whereas Mubarak's state was no longer a mere 


Aswan High Dam made possible large land reclamation 
and electric power generation projects. 

Courtesy Susan Becker 

champion of bourgeois interests as was the state under Sadat, neither 
had it regained the power over society of Nasser's days. 

Despite the power of elites, they did not operate in a vacuum. 
Many of their decisions were reached in response to economic pres- 
sures that sharply limited their options. They also had to consider 
the political consequences of their decisions. The major change from 
Nasser's era was that the bourgeoisie acquired the capacity to ad- 
vance and defend its interests in the system; the 1977 riots made 
clear, however, that mass reaction must also be included in regime 
calculations. Thus, while the Egyptian state remained essentially 
authoritarian, decision makers could not ignore societal wishes, nor 
could they escape environmental constraints. 

The Bureaucracy and Policy Implementation 

Egypt's public bureaucracy was an enormous establishment en- 
compassing at least thirty ministries and hundreds of public agen- 
cies and companies. There were ministries devoted to the traditional 
tasks of governance, such as the Ministry of Interior, charged with 
the maintenance of internal order, and the ministries of defense, 
finance, foreign affairs, and justice. There was also a multitude 
of ministries charged with managing the economy and promoting 


Egypt: A Country Study 

development, such as the ministries of economy and foreign trade, 
industry, international investment and cooperation, irrigation, 
petroleum, planning, power, and reconstruction. Others provided 
public services, such as the ministries of culture, education, health, 
and manpower and training. There was also a vast public sector. 
Under Nasser, 62 public authorities and public service organizations 
responsible to various ministries presided over about 600 public 
companies. Public authorities were holding companies coordinat- 
ing profit-oriented public sector firms of similar function, whereas 
public service organizations were nonprofit in orientation. 

Below the politically appointed ministers and deputy ministers 
was the civil service. It was ranked in six grades, the most senior 
ranks being first undersecretary, undersecretary, and general 
manager. Under the Nasser regime, efforts to reform and modern- 
ize the traditional civil service raised the professional qualifications 
of senior civil servants and opened the service to wider recruitment 
from the educated middle class. But to curb favoritism, seniority 
rather than performance was made the main criterion for advance- 
ment. In addition, Nasser used the bureaucracy to provide employ- 
ment for university graduates. The reform of the bureaucracy soon 
fell behind its expansion in size and functions, making Egypt an 
overadministered society. Sadat pared back the state's control over 
the economy but failed to restrain the growth of the state bureau- 
cracy and allowed its standards and efficiency to decline. The 
bureaucracy mushroomed from 1 . 2 million at the end of the Nas- 
ser era to 2 million at the end of Sadat's rule (20 percent of the 
work force) and 2.6 million in 1986. 

The bureaucracy had a number of outstanding achievements to 
its credit. The special ministries and agencies set up under Nasser 
to build the Aswan High Dam, to carry out agrarian reform, and 
to operate the Suez Canal had the budgets to recruit quality person- 
nel and carried out their missions with distinction. But by the Sadat 
era, the bureaucracy and the public sector were afflicted with a 
multitude of pathologies that made them more of a burden on, 
rather than an instrument of, development. The Council of Minis- 
ters generally failed to provide the strong administrative leadership 
needed to coordinate the sprawling state apparatus, and there- 
fore its various parts often worked at cross-purposes. Many mid- 
dle rank bureaucrats were statists at odds with the liberalization 
initiatives from the top. There was a general breakdown in per- 
formance and discipline in the public service; employees general- 
ly could not be dismissed, pay was dismal except at the highest 
levels, and most officials moonlighted after putting in only a few 
hours each day at work. The excessive number of employees 


Government and Politics 

charged with the same job made it impossible to distinguish con- 
scientious officials from timeservers. Under these conditions, lit- 
tle responsibility could be delegated to lower bureaucrats, and little 
initiative was expected of them. 

Infitah-era. policies also enervated government planning and con- 
trol of the public sector. Abolishing the public authorities created 
under Nasser as layers between the ministries and public sector 
firms was supposed to give the latter greater freedom of manage- 
ment, but instead it brought a decline in financial accountability 
without really allowing managers to respond to a free market. The 
partial "privatization" of public sector companies cost the treasu- 
ry. Government investments in joint ventures with the private or 
foreign sector often escaped the control of government auditors and 
ended up in the pockets of the officials, ex-officials, and private 
business partners who ran the companies. The bureaucracy was 
afflicted with corruption. At senior levels there were periodic scan- 
dals over embezzlement and acceptance of commissions; at lower 
levels, petty graft was rampant. This propensity toward corrup- 
tion damaged the regime's effort to manage its most crucial and 
costly welfare program. The theft of subsidized commodities was 
facilitated by official collusion, from the clerks of government re- 
tail outlets to the high officials of the Ministry of Supply. The decline 
of the bureaucracy also had deleterious economic consequences; 
the public sector suffered from an erosion in management, while 
bureaucratic red tape remained an obstruction to the private and 
foreign sectors. The latter often had to pay off officials to negoti- 
ate the complex webs of administrative requirements. 

Local Government 

Local government traditionally enjoyed limited power in Egypt's 
highly centralized state. Under the central government were twenty- 
six governorates (sing., muhafazah; pi., muhafazat). These were sub- 
divided into districts (sing., markaz; pi., marakaz) and villages (sing., 
qaryah; pi., qura) or towns (see fig. 1). At each level, there was a 
governing structure that combined representative councils and 
government-appointed executive organs headed by governors, dis- 
trict officers, and mayors, respectively. Governors were appoint- 
ed by the president, and they, in turn, appointed subordinate 
executive officers. The coercive backbone of the state apparatus 
ran downward from the Ministry of Interior through the gover- 
nors' executive organs to the district police station and the village 
headman (sing., umdah; pi., umadah). 

Before the revolution, state penetration of the rural areas was limi- 
ted by the power of local notables, but under Nasser, land reform 


Egypt: A Country Study 

reduced their socioeconomic dominance, and the incorporation of 
peasants into cooperatives transferred mass dependence from land- 
lords to government. The extension of officials into the country- 
side permitted the regime to bring development and services to the 
village. The local branches of the ruling party, the Arab Socialist 
Union (ASU), fostered a certain peasant political activism and 
coopted the local notables — in particular the village headmen — 
and checked their independence from the regime. 

State penetration did not retreat under Sadat and Mubarak. The 
earlier effort to mobilize peasants and deliver services disappeared 
as the local party and cooperative withered, but administrative con- 
trols over the peasants remained intact. The local power of the old 
families and the headmen revived but more at the expense of 
peasants than of the state. The district police station balanced the 
notables, and the system of local government (the mayor and coun- 
cil) integrated them into the regime. 

Sadat took several measures to decentralize power to the pro- 
vinces and towns. Governors acquired more authority under Law 
Number 43 of 1979, which reduced the administrative and budget- 
ary controls of the central government over the provinces. The elect- 
ed councils acquired, at least formally, the right to approve or 
disapprove the local budget. In an effort to reduce local demands 
on the central treasury, local government was given wider powers 
to raise local taxes. But local representative councils became vehi- 
cles of pressure for government spending, and the soaring deficits 
of local government bodies had to be covered by the central govern- 
ment. Local government was encouraged to enter into joint ven- 
tures with private investors, and these ventures stimulated an 
alliance between government officials and the local rich that paral- 
leled the infitah alliance at the national level. Under Mubarak de- 
centralization and local autonomy became more of a reality, and 
local policies often reflected special local conditions. Thus, officials 
in Upper Egypt often bowed to the powerful Islamic movement 
there, while those in the port cities struck alliances with importers. 

The Subordinate Branches: The Regime and Its 

The Egyptian state was by no means "captured" by Egypt's 
bourgeoisie; it retained its essential autonomy and often put its own 
interests ahead of those of the upper classes, whether the issue was 
control of the economy or the need to placate the masses and main- 
tain social peace. But, beginning under Sadat, the regime gradu- 
ally came to share power with the business, landed, and professional 
strata that made up a large portion of the most politically active 


Government and Politics 

public and represented its main constituency. This power sharing 
was essentially channeled through parliament, interest groups, the 
judiciary, and the press. 


Egypt had a two-chamber legislature made up of the lower Peo- 
ple's Assembly (Majlis ash Shaab), which was the locus of legisla- 
tive power, and the upper Consultative Council (Majlis ash Shura). 
Power in the People's Assembly was concentrated in the hands of 
the leadership, an elected speaker and the chairs of the specialized 
committees into which the assembly was divided. The president and 
prime minister began each legislative session, which lasted seven 
months, with an overview of government policy. Laws proposed by 
the executive or by legislators were first considered in committee 
and then, with the consent of the legislative leadership, by the full 

The early parliaments under Nasser were dominated by officials 
and by owners of medium-sized property. In the 1960s, the regime 
decreed that half the seats had to be reserved for the lower classes; 
thus, in each electoral district, one seat was filled by a worker or 
peasant and the other by a professional or official. Although this 
provision was never repealed, in practice, since Nasser, those who 
filled peasant seats were actually either clients of notables or wealthy 
peasants enriched by such ventures as labor contracting, while most 
"worker" deputies were trade union officials or government em- 
ployees. There was no sign of any parliamentary voice speaking for 
the have-nots, save the occasional leftist intellectual who managed 
to get a seat but carried no weight. Beginning in 1979, a third seat, 
to be filled by a woman, was added in thirty constituencies, but this 
provision was abolished in the 1980s under conservative Islamic influ- 
ence. The president appointed ten Copts to parliament to make sure 
this minority had some representation (see Coptic Church, ch. 2). 

Constitutional practice put parliament at a great disadvantage 
in relation to the executive. The president is above parliamentary 
authority and appoints the prime minister and his government. 
Constitutionally, parliament must approve the government. More- 
over, it can remove a minister by a vote of no-confidence. It can 
also, in theory, similarly challenge the prime minister and his 
cabinet; if it does so, the president must dissolve the government 
or obtain its endorsement in a popular referendum. In practice, 
however, governments have changed exclusively at the will of the 
president and never following a vote of no-confidence. The presi- 
dent can legislate by decree when parliament is not in session and 
can bypass parliament through a government-controlled plebiscite. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Sadat carried out some of his most politically controversial initia- 
tives independently of parliament, including his 1978 repression 
of the New Wafd Party and his 1979 promulgation of a liberal law 
of personal status that was resisted by Muslim opinion. 

The cabinet and even individual ministers enjoyed, on the author- 
ity of very loosely worded laws, what in effect amounted to decree 
power, which they used to make crucial decisions, including the 
cut in subsidies that touched off the 1977 riots. The budget must 
be accepted or rejected in toto by parliament unless the executive 
consents to amendments. The executive must present its policy 
agenda to parliament, and ministers are subject to interpolation, 
but parliament regularly approves executive initiatives. 

Because defense and foreign policy matters are reserved to the 
executive, defense budgets are never debated in parliament. Like- 
wise, during negotiations over the peace treaty with Israel, Sadat 
rejected, without repercussions, nearly unanimous parliamentary 
resolutions to break off the negotiations, to give the Arab Defense 
Pact priority over the treaty, and to permit normalization of rela- 
tions with Israel to proceed only within the framework of a com- 
prehensive settlement. 

The president's trusted confidants were the legislative leaders, 
and they easily set the agenda. The ruling party, subordinate to 
the president, dominated the assembly and in a number of cases 
ousted its own parliamentary peers when their criticism antagonized 
the government. Many deputies were economically dependent on 
the government; in the 1980s a third of them were employed by 
the state. Because the executive can dissolve parliament and through 
its control of the ruling party and the electoral process replace in- 
cumbents with more docile deputies, the legislature was really at 
the president's mercy. When opposition parties appeared in parlia- 
ment, it became a less submissive body, but the members of the 
large government majority did not view challenging the executive 
as part of their role. Generally, the legislature, lacking all tradi- 
tions of independence or collective solidarity, had only the most 
modest capacity to check the government or hold it accountable. 

Nevertheless, as limited political liberalization advanced, parlia- 
ment played a growing, if still subordinate, role in the political sys- 
tem. Two changes fostered this role: first, the government relegated 
authority over lesser matters to parliament and, along with it, wider 
scope for debate and expression; second, opposition parties were 
permitted to win seats in parliament. 

The chief result of this liberalization was that parliament became 
an arena through which the state shared power with its constitu- 
ency, the dominant landed and business classes, allowing them to 


Government and Politics 

articulate their interests, albeit generally within the broader lines 
of presidential policy. Thus, parliamentary committees were breed- 
ing grounds for an endless stream of initiatives that sought to roll 
back state control or populist regulation of the private sector. For 
example, the Planning and Budget Committee demanded that the 
private sector get a fair share of foreign exchange and bank credit, 
that public sector shares be sold to investors, and that public in- 
dustry be confined to areas private firms could not undertake. The 
Housing Committee pressured the Antiquities Department to divest 
itself of land coveted by developers. The Religious Affairs Com- 
mittee became a sounding board for conservative religious opin- 
ion, pushing Islamization measures, and proposing bans on alcohol, 
Western films, and even belly dancing. Parliament also played some 
role in the budgetary process by which public resources were allo- 
cated and on a number of occasions blocked measures to levy taxes 
on wealthy farmers and business people. 

Parliament had no record of deciding the big issues, but occa- 
sionally it became an arena for debating them. When the regime 
wished to change policy, parliament was sometimes the arena for 
testing the waters or for discrediting old policies as a prelude to 
launching new ones. Sadat encouraged parliament under his con- 
fidant, Sayyid Marii, to criticize the statist Sidqi government and 
used parliament as a vehicle of his de-Nasserization campaign. Once 
opposition parties took their seats in parliament, they attempted, 
with mixed success, to raise issues in opposition to government 

Parliament also played an "oversight" role, calling attention to 
shortcomings in the performance of the bureaucracy or bringing 
constituent grievances to government attention. Ministers were 
constantiy criticized over market shortages and service breakdowns, 
and deputies who took their role seriously spent a great deal of time 
intervening with the bureaucracy on behalf of constituents. On oc- 
casion, parliament challenged the probity of actions by ministers 
and high officials. It attacked the Sidqi government over irregular- 
ities in the arrangements of a major oil pipeline project and the 
Khalil government over the awarding of a telecommunications con- 
tract. A project to build a resort near the pyramids, although involv- 
ing persons close to President Sadat, was investigated and rejected 
in parliament. Whereas such parliamentary activities could serve 
the leader as a useful way of controlling the bureaucracy and as 
a safety valve for redress of grievances, if deputies went too far, 
they invited a reaction. Sadat was so irritated by the rise of par- 
liamentary criticism that in 1979 he dissolved the People's Assembly 


Egypt: A Country Study 

and called new elections, in which the regime, by a combination of 
fraud and intimidation, made sure its main critics lost their seats. 

For those deputies willing to exercise their political skills in sup- 
port of the government, however, parliamentary seats could be 
stepping-stones to political influence and elite careers. Parliamen- 
tary seats allowed deputies to act as brokers between government 
and their constituency, might serve as a base from which to culti- 
vate strategic connections in government, and became something 
of a political apprenticeship by which certain more influential deputies 
became eligible for ministerial office. Parliament also served as a 
repository for high officials out of office who wished to keep their 
hand in the political pot. Judging by the number of candidates who 
sought parliamentary seats, these seats were worthwhile for develop- 
ing connections in the capital and influence at home. 

A second chamber was added to the legislature in the late 1970s 
when the Central Committee of the ASU was transformed into the 
Consultative Council, essentially an advisory chamber of notables 
and retired officials. In 1980 the membership was overhauled; 70 
members were appointed by the president, and the ruling party 
won all 140 elected seats. In 1989 the ruling party again took all 

The Judiciary, Civil Rights, and the Rule of Law 

The Egyptian legal system was built on both the sharia (Islamic 
law) and the Napoleonic Code introduced during Napoleon 
Bonaparte's occupation and the subsequent training of Egyptian 
jurists in France. Until they were abolished in the 1940s, consular 
courts and mixed courts (of foreign and Egyptian jurists), products 
of the capitulations, had jurisdiction over cases involving foreign- 
ers. Until the 1952 Revolution, there was a separate system of reli- 
gious courts that applied the law of personal status, ruling in matters 
of marriage, divorce, and inheritance. Sharia courts had jurisdic- 
tion over Muslims while the Coptic minority had its own communal 
courts. Under the republic, religious courts were abolished and their 
functions transferred to the secular court system, although religious 
law continued to influence the decisions of these courts, especially 
in matters of personal status. In 1990 Egypt's court system was 
otherwise chiefly secular, applying criminal and civil law deriving 
primarily from the French heritage. In the 1970s and 1980s, how- 
ever, Muslim political activists had fought with some success to 
advance the impact of the sharia in adjudication; for example, they 
were influential in reversing a liberal law of personal status decreed 
under Sadat that had expanded the rights of women. They also 
achieved the passage of a constitutional amendment making the 


Government and Politics 

sharia in principle the sole source of legislation, a potential ground 
for ruling unconstitutional a whole corpus of secular law. 

Under the Constitution, the executive is prohibited from "inter- 
fering" in lawsuits or in the affairs of justice. Judges are appointed 
for life and cannot be dismissed without serious cause. This provi- 
sion did not deter Nasser from a wholesale purge of politically hostile 
judges in the late 1960s, but his action was the exception. Under 
Sadat, who sought to replace revolutionary with constitutional 
legitimacy, the role of the judiciary was largely respected. Although 
often annoyed by their rulings in political cases, Sadat eschewed 
any purge of judges and resorted instead to the creation of excep- 
tional courts for political offenses; for its part, the judiciary was 
able to ensure that a majority of appointees to these courts be trained 
judges. The presidency, nevertheless, continued to enjoy consider- 
able influence over the judiciary since judicial appointments are 
a presidential prerogative. Judges were considered functionaries 
of the Ministry of Justice, which administered and financed the 
court system. The president headed the Supreme Council of Judi- 
cial Organs, which established regulations governing the judiciary. 

The base of the court system was made up of district tribunals, 
single-judge courts with jurisdiction over minor civil and criminal 
cases. (Minor civil cases involved less than £E250, and minor crimi- 
nal cases were punished by less than three years' imprisonment.) 
Over these there was in each governorate at least one tribunal of 
first instance, which was composed of a presiding judge and two 
sitting judges. These tribunals of first instance dealt with serious 
crimes and heard appeals from district courts. Seven higher-level 
courts of appeals in Cairo (Al Qahirah), Alexandria (Al Iskandari- 
yah), Tanta, Asyut, Mansurah, Ismailia (Al Ismailiyah), and Bani 
Suwayf were divided into criminal and civil chambers; the former 
tried certain felonies, and the latter heard appeals against judg- 
ments of the tribunals of first instance. The Court of Cassation 
in Cairo heard petitions on final judgments rendered by the courts 
of appeals, made on grounds of defective application of the law 
or violation of due process. It had a president, fifteen vice presi- 
dents, and eighty justices. Alongside these courts of general juris- 
diction were special courts, such as labor tribunals and security 
courts, headed by the Supreme State Security Court, which heard 
cases involving political and military security. A three-level hier- 
archy of administrative courts adjudicated administrative disputes 
among ministries and agencies and was headed by the Council of 
State. The Office of the Public Prosecutor, headed by the attor- 
ney general and staffed by his public prosecutors, supervised the 
enforcement of criminal law judgments. At the apex of the judiciary 


Egypt: A Country Study 

was the Supreme Constitutional Court made up of a chief justice 
and nine justices. It settled disputes between courts and rendered 
binding interpretations in matters that were grave enough to re- 
quire conformity of interpretation under the Constitution. 

The rule of law expanded in the post-Nasser era, and judges be- 
came a vigorous force defending the legal rights of citizens against 
the state. Nonpolitical personal rights, much restricted under Nas- 
ser, were effectively restored under Sadat. It was a sign of the new 
political climate he fostered that not only were private property 
rights considered inviolable but also the courts proved zealous in 
defending the rights of those charged with abuse of public property. 
Political rights were less secure. In contrast to Nasser, Sadat allowed 
private criticism of the government, but rights of public assembly 
were circumscribed by draconian laws against even peaceful pro- 
test and the distribution or possession of "subversive" — normally 
leftist — literature. Although the courts frequently dismissed charges 
on such offenses, those arrested nevertheless often spent much time 
in jail, nor have the courts been able to restrain the regime when 
it wanted badly enough to end dissidence. While Islamic radicals 
have been regularly subjected to arbitrary arrest, the most dramatic 
case of the "iron fist" was the 1981 crackdown, when Sadat arrest- 
ed about 1,500 of Egypt's most prominent public figures. 

Under Mubarak the independence of the courts and their role 
in expanding constitutional rights and procedures grew. Courts 
overturned a ban on the New Wafd Party, threw out the Electoral 
Law of 1984, and declared unconstitutional a Sadat decree issued 
in the absence of parliament. Judges expanded the scope of press 
freedom by dismissing libel suits of government ministers against 
the opposition press and widened the scope of labor rights by dis- 
missing charges against strikers. But the regime saw fit to ignore 
a Supreme Constitutional Court ruling that overturned the distri- 
bution of certain seats in parliament to the disadvantage of the ruling 
party. The Ministry of Interior continued to exercise sweeping pow- 
ers of arrest and detention of dissidents and frequently ignored court 
decisions (see The Judicial System, ch. 5). 

The Political Role of the Media 

Under Nasser the media were brought under state control and 
harnessed as instruments of the revolutionary government for shaping 
public opinion. Radio and television, in particular, began to pene- 
trate the villages. Nasser used them to speak direcdy to Egyptians in 
their own language, and they were major factors in his rise as a 
charismatic leader. Radio Cairo was a link between Nasser and 
his pan-Arab constituency in the Arab world and was regularly 


Government and Politics 

used to stir up popular feeling against rival Arab leaders. In the 
print media, however, the government did not speak with one voice. 
There were identifiable differences in the government-controlled 
press between those on the right of the political spectrum {Al Akh- 
bar, The News), the center (AlAhram, The Pyramids), and the left 
(Ruz al Yusuf). Nasser, a voracious reader, appears to have been 
influenced by the views expressed in the prestigious AlAhram, head- 
ed by Mohamed Hassanain Heikal. Criticism in the left-wing press 
played a role in the drift of his policies to the left in the 1960s. Thus, 
the press had a certain role in transmitting opinion upward. 

In the post- Nasser era, the broadcast media remained govern- 
ment controlled. Fairly developed radio and television facilities 
existed. Egypt had sixty- two mediumwave amplitude modulation 
(AM) radio stations, representing at least one for each major town 
in the country, and three shortwave transmitters that relayed pro- 
grams to listeners in Egypt and overseas. Domestically, stations car- 
ried a number of national programs as well as regional programs 
designed for different parts of Egypt. In its foreign programs, Egypt 
broadcast in thirty-three languages, including the most common 
European languages in addition to such African languages as Am- 
haric, Hausa, Wolof, Swahili, and Yoruba and such Asian lan- 
guages as Bengali, Hindi, Indonesian, and Urdu. Egyptians were 
estimated to own 14 million radios in 1989 and about 3.5 million 
television sets. Television had two national networks, an additional 
channel in Cairo, and a regional "Sinai network"; programs were 
televised in Arabic only. The broadcast media permitted the govern- 
ment to blanket the country with its messages. For example, the 
government enjoyed a virtual monopoly at election time. To placate 
Muslim opinion, television programming was increasingly Islamized, 
and several popular preachers in alliance with the government used 
the electronic media to broaden their followings. 

Newspapers were scarcely more autonomous: government-appoin- 
ted editors were still expected to "self-censor" their product and 
were subject to removal when they did not. Generally, Sadat used 
his prerogative of editorial appointment to eject editors and jour- 
nalists with left-wing views and to foster conservative voices. For 
example, the anti-Nasser Amin brothers, Ali and Mustafa, reap- 
peared in the journalistic establishment, and Ibrahim Saada was 
permitted to turn Al Akhbar into a vehicle of anti- Soviet and anti- 
Arab propaganda. The fall of Heikal at AlAhram for allegedly try- 
ing to turn the paper into a "center of power" showed Sadat was 
no more willing than Nasser to tolerate a major journalistic voice 
at variance with his policy. Sadat, however, permitted the found- 
ing of an independent opposition press that reached far fewer 


Egypt: A Country Study 

readers but expressed much more diverse views than the govern- 
ment press. Al Ahali (The Folk) spoke for the left, Al Ahrar (The 
Liberals) for the right, Ad Dawah (The Call) and later Al Ihtisan 
(Adherence) for the Muslim Brotherhood, and Ash Shaab (The Peo- 
ple) for the center-left Labor Party. The government party pub- 
lished Al Mayu (May). Opposition newspapers were sometimes 
joined by government papers in investigative journalism that un- 
covered scandals embarrassing to the government. The left-wing 
press, in particular, carried on a campaign against the infitah and 
Sadat's foreign policy that led to the closing of Al Ahali. 

Mubarak restored freedom to the secular press, allowed the New 
Wafd Party to publish Al Wafd (The Mission) and Nasserites to 
open Sawt alArab (Voice of the Arabs), while repressing the Brother- 
hood's A d Dawah. The rise of Islamist sentiment was nevertheless 
reflected in the proliferation of Islamist periodicals put out by the 
various parties, such as Al Lima al Islami (The Islamic Standard) 
by the government party and An Nur (The Light) by the Liberal 
Party (Ahrar). One sign of the growing independence and influence 
of the press under Mubarak was the 1987 trial of police officers 
for torturing Islamic activists, a milestone in the protection of in- 
dividual rights that resulted largely from public pressures gener- 
ated by the press. But there were limits to the influence of the press: 
the circulation of the main government dailies did not exceed 1 
million each, and except for Al Wafd, the opposition papers were 
all weeklies lucky to get a tenth of that figure. 

Interest Groups 

The widening scope for interest- group politics was one of the 
most significant dimensions of the limited liberalization begun under 
Sadat. Under the Nasser regime, which distrusted the effect of pres- 
sure groups on public policy, interest groups were brought into 
a corporatist system whereby their leaders were government ap- 
pointed. They were thus rendered powerless to deflect the mount- 
ing state assault on private interests launched in the name of 
socialism. Sadat, seeking to win the support of the land-owning 
and educated classes, permitted their associated interest groups 
greater autonomy and opened greater access for them into the 
decision-making process. Their members turned parliament into 
a channel for promoting their interests, and their representatives 
carried weight in the system of consultative national councils. Un- 
der Mubarak the numbers and influence of interest groups grew, 
and although the relation between the state and these associations 
was by no means free of conflict, they carried much more weight 
in policy councils than the unorganized mass public. Of all interests, 


Government television building, Cairo 
Courtesy Embassy of Egypt, Washington 

business made the best use of the widened scope for interest- group 
activity. In men such as Osman Ahmad Osman, business enjoyed 
the direct access to Sadat critical for steering the transition from 
statism. But organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and the 
Federation of Industries also spoke with increasing authority for 
their interests against both the state sector and labor. The Business- 
men's Association and the Egyptian- American Chamber of Com- 
merce united the most powerful business interests and facilitated 
their access to state resources. The government even encouraged 
formation of new business organizations, such as a joint venture 
investors' association and an exporters' union. 

To be sure, the bourgeoisie was far from united on many issues. 
Business people vied for lucrative privileged deals with the public 
sector, and those connected to its patronage networks were much 
more favorable to the state than those in competition with it. Such 
competition included the bankers, who fought the public sector for 
control of foreign exchange, and others who had to pay off offi- 
cials merely to operate. Clashes also occurred between the interests 
of importers and of local industrialists and between the secular haute 
bourgeoisie and Islamic-oriented small business. 

Nevertheless, on the big issues such as infitah, government regu- 
lation, taxation, prices, and wages, business shared a common view. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Thus, business people and business groups were instrumental in 
pressuring for the widening of infitah under Sadat. They continually 
lobbied, with considerable success, for tax reductions and exemp- 
tions on the ground that the mobilization of savings and investment 
required these concessions. The government responded by reduc- 
ing the progressive rates of the income tax and permitting a prolifer- 
ation of "tax holidays" for new investment. The ability of the rich 
to evade taxes had become such a scandal by the end of the 1970s 
that Sadat declared the rich were not paying their fair share of taxes. 
The Chamber of Commerce lobbied aggressively against attempts 
by the Ministry of Supply to fix profit ceilings on imported com- 
modities and fought back pressures from the trade unions for in- 
creases in minimum wages. Construction and real estate interests, 
operating through the Housing Committee of parliament, pushed 
through the demolition of lower-income neighborhoods to make 
way for luxury hotels, highways, parking lots, and office towers. 
The Federation of Industries launched a campaign to roll back pub- 
lic sector monopolies in fields where industrialists wanted to in- 
vest, while at the same time pushing for protection from foreign 
competition. Owners of large farms were also successful in advanc- 
ing their interests. Operating through the Agricultural Affairs Com- 
mittee of parliament, they won an alteration in the Law on Agrarian 
Relations, reducing the security of tenants and raising their rents; 
had public money allocated to compensate victims of the Nasserite 
land reforms; and won the right to bid on reclaimed state land, 
unrestricted by the agrarian reform ceiling. 

The professional syndicates or unions also worked to defend the 
interests of their members. The medical syndicate, for example, 
lobbied to restrain the indiscriminate expansion of professional 
school enrollments, which it said was producing a surplus of under- 
trained graduates. The engineers' syndicate insisted that foreign 
firms be required to hire a quota of Egyptian engineers. 

The actions of the journalists' and lawyers' syndicates stood out 
as cases where professionals took positions on wider political is- 
sues in opposition to the regime. The syndicates took these posi- 
tions partly because these associations were battlegrounds between 
rival political forces and partly because their professional interests 
demanded political freedoms greater than those that the regime 
was willing to concede. Thus, the journalists' union long fought 
to expand press freedoms. Sadat inserted a trusted confidant to 
discipline the union, and when the strong leftist influence in the 
profession led to the election of a leftist, he tried unsuccessfully to 
abolish the union. The Mubarak regime, however, managed to 
reassert its control. 


Government and Politics 

The lawyers' syndicate also became an independent force trouble- 
some to the regime. While lawyers generally applauded Sadat's 
liberalization and the restoration of the rule of law, he did not go 
far enough to please many. The union gave New Wafdist leader 
Fuad Siraj ad Din (also seen as Serag al Din) a forum for his at- 
tempt to resurrect his party. Siraj ad Din vigorously attacked Sadat's 
Law of Shame by which he attempted to outlaw all criticism "dis- 
respectful" of presidential authority. Sadat finally purged the syn- 
dicate leadership when it attacked the normalization of relations 
with Israel. Under Mubarak the syndicate became an even more 
contentious defender of civil liberties; in 1986 lawyers staged a strike 
against the continuation of emergency laws, and in 1988 the syn- 
dicate raised a public storm when it launched a campaign against 
the abuse of emergency laws and illegal detentions. 

Public sector managers also entered the interest group arena as 
the infitah unfolded, embodying both threats and opportunities for 
them. The Ministry of Industry convened assemblies in which pub- 
lic sector officials were allowed to vent their grievances. Seeking 
to compete and survive in a freer economy, they demanded dis- 
cretion to raise prices as costs rose, reduction of their tax burden, 
and authority over personnel policy to "link incentives to produc- 
tion." They also lobbied against a joint-venture textile factory that 
threatened to flood the market at the expense of the public textile 
industry. The managers had but limited success, however, because 
their desire for lower taxes clashed with the needs of the treasury, 
and their desire to raise prices and dismiss excess labor risked a 
popular reaction the government could ill afford. Public sector 
managers increasingly saw their salvation, therefore, in joint ven- 
tures with foreign firms that would release them from government 
restrictions and from the provisions of the labor code. Pushing from 
the other side with mixed success, the trade unions voiced the ob- 
jections of public sector workers to any weakening of the labor code. 
The unions fought for increases in the minimum wage, too, but 
raises always seemed to lag behind the rising cost of living. 

Generally speaking, the widened scope for interest-group polit- 
ics in post-Nasser Egypt opened access for the "haves" to the policy 
process. But this was to the exclusion of, and often at the expense 
of, the less well connected or unorganized masses. 

Controlling the Mass Political Arena 

A state may control the political arena through some combina- 
tion of legitimacy, coercion, and the incorporation of participation 
through political institutions. Nasser used charisma and coercion 
to impose a nationalist-populist ideological consensus on Egypt's 


Egypt: A Country Study 

political arena and to incorporate a broad support coalition in a 
single — albeit weak — party, the Arab Socialist Union (ASU). His 
charismatic legitimacy allowed him to balance rival social forces. 
For example, he used popular support to curb the bourgeoisie, 
rather than to accommodate their participatory propensities, and 
to repress those — the Wafd (Al Wafd al Misri), and the Muslim 
Brotherhood — that refused incorporation into his coalition. The 
post-Nasser regime had to reshape Egypt's political institutions in 
order to maintain control over the political arena without the legi- 
timacy and coercive assets he had commanded. 

Sadat resorted to a strategy mixing limited liberalization, retradi- 
tionalization, and repression. He pioneered an experiment in limit- 
ed political pluralization designed to control the politically attentive 
public. Needing to solicit the support of the bourgeoisie in the 
absence of the broad mass legitimacy Nasser had enjoyed, Sadat 
had to address its desires for political liberalization. Moreover, as 
his "rightward" policy course shattered the consensus Nasser had 
built and precipitated the emergence of leftist-Nasserite opposition, 
Sadat sought to balance this opposition by allowing the mainstream 
Islamic movement and the liberal New Wafd Party to reenter the 
political arena. As Egypt's political arena was thus pluralized, Sadat 
attempted to incorporate it through a controlled multiparty sys- 
tem. The ASU was dismantled and opposition parties allowed to 
coalesce around its fragments or the remnants of resurrected 
prerevolutionary parties. They were expected to be "loyal" opposi- 
tion parties that would refrain from "destructive" criticism of re- 
gime policy but within this limit were allowed to compete with the 
government party in parliamentary elections. Even Nasserites and 
the Marxist left were more or less accommodated within these par- 
ties, although they were vulnerable to exclusion from the system 
when they pushed their cases too far; indeed, ultimately, when they 
refused to play by his rules, Sadat suspended the experiment. 

Toward the more passive masses, Sadat's strategy was to replace 
charismatic with traditional personal legitimacy, projecting him- 
self as a pious and patriarchal leader and, after 1973, as a success- 
ful war hero. But as corruption and inequality spread while he 
pursued Westernization and accommodation with Israel, this strate- 
gy gradually failed, leaving a legitimacy vacuum that paved the 
way for his assassination. The absence of public mourning on his 
death, in stark contrast to the mass hysteria on Nasser's passing, 
was a measure of the decline of regime legitimacy by the end of 
Sadat's presidency. 

Mubarak inherited a regime lacking a credible legitimizing ideol- 
ogy or a leading personality capable of attracting mass loyalties 


Government and Politics 

to the state. Indicative of the regime's ideological bankruptcy fol- 
lowing Sadat's death was Mubarak's attempt to portray his new 
regime as both Nasserite and Islamic, all the while continuing 
Sadatist policies. In the absence of ideological legitimacy, the 
Mubarak regime had to restore the faltering political liberaliza- 
tion pioneered by Sadat. Mubarak revived opposition parties and 
widened freedom of political expression, particularly of the press, 
permitting much more unrestrained criticism of the government 
than was permitted under Sadat. Limited political pluralization 
was essential to accommodate the participatory demands of the edu- 
cated upper and middle classes, and given the continuing passivity, 
poverty, and deference of a large part of the masses, such plurali- 
zation could be managed with less risk than the alternative of large- 
scale repression. Moreover, as under Sadat, liberalization was not 
uniformly applied to social groups. The regime sought to accom- 
modate more conservative forces, such as the liberal bourgeoisie 
and conservative Islamists, while reserving selective repression for 
leftists, strikers, and Islamic radicals. 

The "Dominant Party System" 

In Egypt's "dominant party system," a big ruling party strad- 
dling the center of the ideological spectrum was flanked by small 
opposition "parties of pressure" on its left and right. 

The Ruling Party 

The ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) was a direct 
descendant of Nasser's Arab Socialist Union, albeit shorn of the 
left-wing intellectuals and politicized officers who dominated it in 
the 1960s. By the 1980s, it incorporated the ruling alliance of senior 
bureaucrats, top police and army officers, business people, and large 
landowners who dominated the governorates. Most of these elites 
had a foot in both state and society, combining public office and 
private assets. The party's official ideology expressed this social 
composition: it stood for a middle way between socialism and in- 
dividualistic capitalism. This middle way would be compatible with 
a large public sector, in which the many senior bureaucrats and 
state managers had a stake, and with the growing private and for- 
eign capitalism, on which both officials and proregime business peo- 
ple were thriving. The party's ideology was generally too vague 
and ambivalent to determine government policy, but it authenti- 
cally expressed the stake of its constituents in both a massive state 
and an open economy. The relative balance between the party's 
elements shifted over time; under Sadat the infitah bourgeoisie rose 


Egypt: A Country Study 

to prominence, while Mubarak shifted the balance in favor of the 
state bourgeoisie and the old pre- 1952 aristocracy. 

The NDP, lacking developed organization and ideological soli- 
darity, was a weak party, in many ways more an appendage of 
government than an autonomous political force. But it performed 
useful functions for both the regime and its membership. Although 
the bureaucracy and academia remained the principal channels of 
elite recruitment, party credentials and service became a factor in 
such cooptation, and the party represented a ladder of recruitment 
for the private sector bourgeoisie. The party did not make high 
policy, and many of the policy recommendations of its commit- 
tees, such as calls for the application of the sharia and abolition 
of the public sector, were simply ignored by the government. But 
its parliamentary caucus assumed considerable authority over lesser 
matters: it was the source of a constant stream of initiatives and 
responses to government meant to defend or to promote the in- 
terest of its largely bourgeois constituency. Thus, the NDP incor- 
porated major segments of the most strategic social forces into the 
ruling coalition; it conceded no accountability to them but provided 
enough privileged access to satisfy them. 

The party lacked a strong extragovernmental organization, en- 
joyed little loyalty from its members, and had few activists; indeed, 
police officials played a prominent role in its leadership, and in 
the governorates the Ministry of Interior seemed to act for the party 
in the absence of a real apparatus. But by way of the client net- 
works of progovernment notables, the party brought a portion of 
the village and urban masses into the regime's camp, denying the 
opposition access to them. The party also nominally incorporated 
large numbers of government employees and managed to place its 
partisans in the top posts of most of the professional and labor syn- 
dicates. The party lacked an interest in mass mobilization, and, 
if anything, its function was to enforce demobilization. The govern- 
ment had to depend on the Ministry of Interior, village headmen, 
and local notables to bring out the vote. But as an organizational 
bond between the regime and the local sub-elites that represented 
its core support and its linkage to wider social forces, the party 
helped protect the government's societal base. 

The Opposition Parties 

The once monolithic Egyptian political arena gave birth in the 
1970s to a rich array of new political parties competing with the 
ruling party. While some were a "loyal" opposition and others 
closer to counterregime movements, all gave expression to interests 
and values different from those of the ruling party. 


Government and Politics 

The tiny Liberal Party was formed in 1976 from a right-wing 
sliver of the ASU by an ex- army officer. Grouping landowners and 
professionals, it was to the right of the ruling party. Its ideology 
combined calls for the selling of the public sector, an end to subsi- 
dies, and unrestricted foreign investment with demands for fur- 
ther political liberalization and an attempt to mobilize God and 
Islam in defense of capitalism. Having littie popular appeal, it oper- 
ated as an elite pressure group speaking for private enterprise and 
generally in support of Sadat's liberalization policies. 

Although also beginning as a faction of the ASU headed by a 
left-wing Free Officer, Khalid Muhi ad Din, the National Progres- 
sive Unionist Party (NPUP or Tagamu) evolved into an authentic 
opposition party of the left. It brought together, behind an ideolo- 
gy of nationalist populism, a coalition of Marxist and Nasserite 
intellectuals and trade union leaders. It defended the Nasserite 
heritage, rejected the alignment with the United States and the 
separate peace with Israel, and called for a return to Egypt's anti- 
imperialist role. It rejected the infitah as damaging to national in- 
dustry and leading to foreign domination, debt, corruption, and 
inequality; it called for a return to development led by the public 
sector. It had a small but well organized base of activists. 

The Socialist Labor Party (SLP or Amal) was formed in 1979 
under Sadat's encouragement to displace the NPUP (which was 
proving too critical) as the loyal opposition party of the left. While 
its social composition — landlords and professionals — resembled the 
Liberal Party, many of its leaders were quite different in political 
background, having belonged to the radical nationalist Young Egypt 
Party (Misr al Fatat) before 1952. Despite its origin, the party, 
alienated by Sadat's separate peace, by the corruption in his re- 
gime, and by the excesses of infitah, soon moved into opposition, 
becoming a public sector defender critical of untrammeled capital- 
ism and Western alignment. The SLP lacked a large organized 
base and relied on the personal followings of its leaders. It and the 
Liberal Party, in an effort to overcome their limited popular ap- 
peal, joined in 1987 with the Muslim Brotherhood in the Islamic 
Alliance under the slogan "Islam is the solution." 

The New Wafd Party was a coalition of landowners, profession- 
als, and merchants, led by a number of prominent leaders of the 
original Wafd, notably Fuad Siraj ad Din. It was the voice of the 
old aristocracy excluded from power by Nasser and of the wing 
of the private bourgeoisie still antagonistic to the state bourgeoisie 
that emerged in the shadow of the regime. It also enjoyed a sig- 
nificant following among the educated middle class. The party's 
main plank called for genuine political liberalization, including 


Egypt: A Country Study 

competitive election of the president. It demanded thorough eco- 
nomic liberalization to match political liberalization, including a 
radical reduction in the public sector, in state intervention in the 
economy, and in barriers to a full opening to international capital- 
ism. Although it clashed with Sadat over the legitimacy of the 1952 
Revolution, as the economic role of the state was strengthened under 
Mubarak, the New Wafd Party came to speak with a Sadatist slant 
to the "right" of the ruling NDP. 

The Islamic movement was fragmented into a multitude of au- 
tonomous factions that shared the common goal of an Islamic state 
but differed in social origin and in tactics. Those that were willing 
to work through the system were allowed to organize and nominate 
candidates in parliamentary elections. But no Islamic party, as such, 
was permitted, and major sections of the movement remained in 
intense, often violent conflict with the regime. Thus, the move- 
ment was only partially integrated into the party system. 

The mainstream of the movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, 
was a coalition led by ulama, merchants, and lower-middle-class 
student activists commanding a following in the traditional urban 
quarters. It was founded as a radical movement in the 1930s by 
Hasan al Banna, was repressed under Nasser, and reemerged in 
more moderate form under Sadat. Umar Tilmasani, its main leader 
in the Sadat era, was associated with the infitah, and its leader there- 
after, Muhammad Hamid Abu an Nasr, was from a wealthy pro- 
vincial family. The Brotherhood was split along generational lines 
among factions loyal to its various previous leaders. These factions 
included the more radical elements loyal to the founder, the con- 
servative Tilmasani faction, and the parliamentary caucus in the 
late 1980s led by Mahmud al Hudaibi, son of the second Supreme 
Guide, or party leader. On the Brotherhood's right were wealthy 
conservatives who justified capitalism in the language of religion. 
The more activist J amaat al Islamiyah (Islamic Associations), an 
amorphous movement of many small groups, were drawn from 
a cross-section of the student population, while the most radical 
Islamic groups, such as At Takfir wal Hijra (Atonement and Alien- 
ation) and Al Jihad (Holy War), were made up of educated, lower- 
middle-class elements and recent urban emigrants from the village 
(see Islam, ch. 2, Muslim Extremism, ch. 5). Various populist 
preachers in the traditional urban neighborhoods enjoyed broad per- 
sonal followings. Whereas the movement was weak among indus- 
trial workers and peasants, it was strongly attractive to more "margin- 
al" elements such as educated, unemployed, rural migrants and the 
traditional mass of small merchants and artisans. All the Islamic groups 
shared a rejection of both Marxism and Westernization in the name 


Government and Politics 

of an Islamic third way that accepted private property and profit 
but sought to contain their inegalitarian consequences by a moral 
code and a welfare state. The main ideological difference between 
the Islamic groups centered on the means for reaching an Islamic 
order; whereas moderate groups advocated peaceful proselytiza- 
tion, detente with the regime, and work through established insti- 
tutions, radical groups pursued a more activist challenge to the 
secular order, and some advocated its violent overthrow. 


The pluralization of the party system was accompanied by a 
parallel but limited opening up of the electoral system. Parliamen- 
tary elections continued to be held even after the 1952 establish- 
ment of an authoritarian system, although they were never truly 
competitive and played almost no role in recruitment of the top 
elite, which was selected from above. The elections were not 
meaningless, however. They were a mechanism by which the re- 
gime coopted into parliament politically acceptable local notables, 
and they served as a safety valve for managing the pressures for 

During the period of single-party elections (1957-72), govern- 
ment controls were tight, and candidates were screened for politi- 
cal loyalty by the leading Free Officers who dominated the party. 
Some choice was permitted among candidates, who normally were 
authentic local notables, and the personal prestige and resources 
of rival candidates often decided the outcome. In the 1960s, a dual- 
member constituency system was introduced, in which one of two 
seats was reserved for a worker or peasant. As mentioned earlier, 
this system was a largely unsuccessful attempt to draw the lower 
classes into the electoral process. 

Beginning in 1976, Sadat permitted competition among three 
proto-parties of the left, center, and right, a major step on the road 
to a more open political process; scores of independents were also 
allowed to run. The 1979 elections, in which antigovernment can- 
didates running against the peace treaty with Israel encountered 
a wall of government harassment and fraud, represented a step 
backward from liberalization. 

The 1984 and 1987 elections under Mubarak, however, were the 
most open and competitive elections since 1952. There were more 
parties, because the New Wafd Party and the NPUP, excluded 
by Sadat, were readmitted, and the Muslim Brotherhood was al- 
lowed to run individual candidates under the auspices of an allied 
secular party. Because campaigning was freer and more extensive 
than ever, it was also clearer to more people that party stands on 


Egypt: A Country Study 

issues were important in the elections. But, as if to counter this, 
the government's introduction of the 1984 Election Law meant to 
exclude smaller parties from parliament: no party that received less 
than 8 percent of the vote would receive seats, and its votes would 
be added to the party achieving a plurality. Moreover, the dual- 
member constituency system was replaced with large multi- 
member districts in which party lists competed. This arrangement 
diluted the influence of local notables vis-a-vis the government but 
also reduced the regime's ability to coopt them because many re- 
fused to run for election under these conditions. It also ended the 
guarantee of half of the seats for workers and peasants. The low 
turnout for elections indicated that many Egyptians were uncon- 
vinced that voting under these conditions made any difference to 
political outcomes; although officials announced a 47 percent 1987 
turnout, the number of voters was actually closer to 25 percent. 

Even under the relatively open multiparty elections, the govern- 
ment party continued to have the upper hand and never failed to 
win a large majority. The government party monopolized the 
broadcast media, and the government tried to restrict opposition 
attempts to reach the voters. The Ministry of Interior ran the elec- 
tions, in which the ballot was not really secret; it mobilized local 
headmen on the side of government; and it sometimes resorted to 
outright stuffing of ballot boxes. Ruling-party "toughs" and police 
often intimidated opposition poll watchers and voters. The govern- 
ment benefited from the tendency of many voters to support the 
government candidate out of deference to authority, hope for ad- 
vantage, or realization that the opposition would not be permitted 
a majority. Many workers and peasants, economically dependent 
on a government job or agricultural services, dared not antagonize 
the government. 

Because the scope of opposition on issues was so narrow, the per- 
sonal prestige and patronage resources of candidates played a major 
role in swaying votes, and the government party typically coopted 
its candidates from local notables with such resources. Patronage 
could range from the distribution of chickens at election time, to 
the promise of government jobs or the delivery of roads and utili- 
ties to a village, to the refurbishing of the local mosque. Voters 
were also influenced by the prestige of wealth and profession, the 
well-known family name that could forge intricate patterns of fam- 
ily alliances, and the national -level stature that made one a local 
"favorite son." Only as the electoral process was pluralized did ideol- 
ogies and issues come to play a role, but this role remained limited; 
many voters either lacked political consciousness or were uncon- 
vinced of the efficacy of issue voting in an authoritarian regime. 


Buses are a major element in Cairo's transportation. 

Courtesy Susan Becker 

Urban middle- and working-class voters were most likely to vote 
on an issue basis, but in the rural areas most people cast their votes 
for the notables for whom they worked or for those who had the 
government connections best able to do them favors. Thus, the 
government could offset the votes of the more politically conscious 
with a mass of rural votes delivered on a clientage basis. 

The outcomes of the four multiparty elections reflected a cer- 
tain changing balance of power between government and the op- 
position and among the competing opposition forces. In the first 
multiparty elections of 1976, the government center faction won 
280 of 350 seats; the right (soon-to-be Liberal Party) 12; and the 
left (soon-to-be NPUP), 4. In addition, there were forty-eight in- 
dependents, some of whom emerged as leading opposition figures. 
In 1979 Sadat, having repressed the NPUP and the just-formed 
New Wafd Party, allowed only one supposedly loyal opposition 
party, the Socialist Labor Party, to compete, and the government 
party (the NDP) won all but thirty seats. In the 1984 elections, 
the New Wafd Party and the Muslim Brotherhood formed a joint 
ticket. The NDP got 73 percent of the vote and took 390 of 448 
seats, whereas the New Wafd Party- Brotherhood alliance captured 
58 seats with 15 percent of the vote and emerged as the main op- 
position force. The smaller parties were excluded from parliament 


Egypt: A Country Study 

by the 8 percent rule. In 1987 the New Wafd Party ran alone, while 
the small Liberal and Socialist Labor parties joined with the Mus- 
lim Brotherhood in the Islamic Alliance. The New Wafd Party won 
thirty-five seats and the Islamic Alliance, sixty. Thus, under Mu- 
barak the government majority remained unchallengeable, but it 
had declined, and the New Wafd Party and the Islamic movement 
had emerged as a significant opposition presence in parliament. 
However, the exclusion of the NPUP from parliament, principal- 
ly through the 1984 Election Law, marginalized Egypt's only un- 
ambiguously populist voice, the one force that was free of wealthy 
patrons or powerful economic interests and that set forth an alterna- 
tive noncapitalist economic program. Parliament remained almost 
exclusively a preserve of the bourgeoisie. The 1987 elections marked 
not only the growing influence of Islam and the decline of the secular 
left, but also the rise of a new Islamic-secular cleavage cutting across 
class-based rifts and putting the regime, the NPUP, and the New 
Wafd Party on the same side. This cross-cutting tended to mute 
political conflict to the advantage of the regime. 

Despite their seeming inability to win power, the opposition par- 
ties had a real function as "parties of pressure" in the dominant 
party system. They articulated the interests and values of sectors 
of the population ignored by the dominant party. They helped frame 
the terms of public debate by raising issues that would otherwise 
have remained off the public agenda. For opposition activists, par- 
ticipation offered the chance to espouse ideas, to shape public opin- 
ion, and occasionally even to influence policy because if they 
threatened to capture enough support, they might force the govern- 
ment to alter its course. The Liberal Party helped advance eco- 
nomic liberalization under Sadat, while the NPUP was a brake 
on the reversal of populist policies. The Islamists won Islamiza- 
tion concessions from the secular regime, whereas the New Wafd 
Party helped make partial political liberalization irreversible. 

A party of pressure might also act as an interest group advocat- 
ing particular interests in elite circles or promoting the fortunes 
of aspirant politicians hoping for cooptation. Mubarak's more con- 
sensual style of rule and regular consultation with opposition leaders 
marginally advanced their ability to influence government policy. 
For example, in early 1990 Mubarak bowed to an opposition cam- 
paign and removed the unpopular minister of interior, Zaki Badr. 
A tacit understanding existed between government and opposition: 
the latter knew if it went too far in challenging the regime, it invit- 
ed repression, whereas the former knew if it were too unrespon- 
sive or tightened controls too much, it risked antisystem mobili- 


Government and Politics 

The primary consequence of the system in the short run was the 
stabilization of the regime. The divisions in the opposition allowed 
the regime to play them against each other. Secularists were pit- 
ted against Islamists, left against right. The opposition parties chan- 
neled much political activity that might otherwise have taken a 
covert, even violent, antiregime direction into more tame, manage- 
able forms. Opposition elites, in working through the system, 
brought their followings into it; a sign of the regime's success was 
the incorporation of the three political formations that had been 
most independent under Sadat — the New Wafd Party, the Mus- 
lim Brotherhood, and the NPUP — into the system under Mubarak. 

In the longer run, the party experiment was deepening the 
pluralization of the political arena. That the pluralization begun 
under Sadat was real was clear from the persistence of all the par- 
ties then founded. They proved to be more than personalistic or 
official factions and either revived some political tradition or were 
rooted in an underlying social cleavage or dissent on a major is- 
sue. The rough correspondence between the ideologies of the par- 
ties and their social bases indicated a "blocking out" of the political 
arena, moving Egyptian politics beyond a mere competition of pa- 
trons and shillas without social roots. This pluralization had, 
however, only begun to seep down to the level of the mass public, 
much of which remained politically apathetic or attached to tradi- 
tional client networks. The dominant party system had adapted 
sufficiently to the level of pluralization in the 1980s to impart a 
crucial element of stability to the regime. 

The Limits of Incorporation: The Rise of Political Islam and the 
Continuing Role of Repression 

The social base of the state under Sadat and Mubarak was un- 
doubtedly narrower than it had been under Nasser. In some ways, 
it was more solid. It rested on the hard-core support of the most 
strategic social force, the bourgeoisie, which had a major stake in 
its survival, and it at least partially incorporated elements of the 
opposition through the party/interest group structure created un- 
der limited liberalization. Yet, although the parties articulated in- 
terests, they did not, as in strong party systems, incorporate a large 
mobilized public or the interests of the masses into the making of 
public policies. There was still an institutional gap between public 
wishes and policy outcomes; decisions, still made in limited elite 
circles, therefore enjoyed little societal support. Moreover, the 
regime still lacked the ideological legitimacy to win the loyalty of 
the masses. By the middle of the 1980s, as economic expansion 
gave way to austerity, the challenge of mass control became ever 


Egypt: A Country Study 

more burdensome. The limits of the regime's capacity to incor- 
porate dissident factions left the door open to the rise of a counter- 
elite in the form of the Islamic movement, and the regime had to 
continue to rely on coercion and repression to stave off dissent and 

The development of the Islamic movement in the 1980s was the 
most significant change in the political arena and one with the poten- 
tial to transform the system. Sadat originally unleashed the move- 
ment against his leftist opponents, but as Westernization and the 
infitah advanced, the Islamic movement became a vehicle of oppo- 
sition, sometimes violent, to his regime. He attempted to curb it, 
but under Mubarak it took on new dimensions. The more violent 
messianic groups, such as Al Jihad, were the targets of continual 
repression and containment, apparently only partly successful. 
Their destabilizing potential was indicated by their role in the as- 
sassination of Sadat, a major rebellion they mounted in Asyut at 
that time, a 1986 wave of attacks on video shops and Westernized 
boutiques, and assassination attempts against high officials. The 
regime responded by arresting thousands of these radical activists. 
Another Islamic body, the Jamaat al Islamiyah, recovered the con- 
trol of the student unions Sadat tried to break. In the mid-1980s, 
they won twice the number of votes of the NDP in student union 
elections, and the secular opposition was squeezed out. The left 
made inroads in their dominance toward the end of the decade, 
however. Radical groups belonging to Jamaat al Islamiyah tried 
to impose a puritanical, sometimes anti-Coptic, Islamic regime on 
the campuses and in the towns of Upper Egypt, where local govern- 
ment sometimes bowed to their demands. More moderate groups 
in Jamaat al Islamiyah could turn out large disciplined crowds for 
public prayer, the nearest thing to a mass demonstration that the 
regime reluctantly permitted. A major contest was waged over 
Egypt's 40,000 mosques; the government sought to appoint imams 
but had too few reliable candidates, while the movement sought 
to wrest control of these major potential centers of Islamic 

The influence of Islamic groups in poor urban neighborhoods 
seemed to grow in the 1980s. In 1985 when parliament rejected 
immediate application of the sharia, Islamic agitation led by Shaykh 
Hafiz Salama swept Cairo, and in the late 1980s bitter clashes oc- 
curred in Ayn Shams between a kind of Islamic "shadow govern- 
ment" there and the security forces. Although Islamic militants 
were certainly a minority and were even resented by a good por- 
tion of the public, their activism in a largely passive political arena 
gave them great power. The government tried to drive a wedge 


Government and Politics 

between the more militant youth groups and the Islamic main- 
stream; thus, in 1989 Shaykh Muhammad Mutwalli Sharawi, a 
prestigious and popular preacher, was brought to denounce the 
use of violence in the name of Islam. 

The Islamic mainstream, possessed of increasing cohesion, or- 
ganization, and mobilizational capability, rapidly took advantage 
of the legitimate channels of activity opened by the regime under 
Mubarak. The mainstream Muslim Brotherhood and its conser- 
vative cousins were incorporated into parliament; they infiltrated 
the parties, the judiciary, and the press; and they generally put 
secular forces on the defensive. The more the secular opposition 
proved impotent to wrest a share of power from the regime, the 
more dissidents seemed to turn to political Islam as the only viable 
alternative. A dramatic indicator of this was the substantial repre- 
sentation Islamists won in the professional syndicates, especially 
the doctors' union, traditionally bastions of the liberal, upper-middle 
class; only the lawyers' and journalists' unions resisted their sway. 
Victories indicative of Islamic influence included the reversal of 
Sadat's law of personal status that gave women some modest rights, 
a decision by certain state companies to cease hiring women so they 
could take their "proper place in the home," and a constitutional 
amendment making sharia the sole basis of legislation. Islamic sen- 
timent and practices were widespread in the 1980s. Filling the vacu- 
um left by the withering of state populism, the Islamic movement 
constructed an alternative social infrastructure — mosques, clinics, 
cooperatives — to bring the masses under Islamic leadership. 

The movement was backed by the power of Islamic banking and 
investment houses, an enigmatic development that possibly was 
filling the gap left by the decline of the state economy. Claiming 
to represent an alternative economic way, these Islamic banks ini- 
tially seemed better positioned than government or foreign banks 
to mobilize the savings of ordinary people. Yet, while the Islamic 
movement grew up in opposition to Westernization and the infitah, 
these institutions were linked to entrepreneurs enriched in the oil 
states who made huge profits on the same international connec- 
tions and through many of the same speculative financial, black- 
market, and tertiary enterprises infitah had encouraged. As scan- 
dals shook public confidence in them, the government moved to 
curb their autonomy. But their tentacles reached into the political 
system. They were major contributors to the ruling NDP and had 
forged alliances with the New Wafd Party and the Islamic Alli- 
ance as well. It was unclear by 1990 whether the effect of Islamic 
banking institutions would be to incorporate ordinary Egyptians 
into a more indigenous, broader-based capitalism adjusted to the 


Egypt: A Country Study 

infitah regime, to provide the economic basis for an alternative socio- 
political order, or to prove a mere flash in the pan. The regime's 
mix of hostility and wary tolerance toward them suggested it was 
not sure itself. 

The Islamic movement thus emerged as a powerful cross-class 
political alliance, a potential counterestablishment. As its economic 
and political power grew, however, there were signs that its anti- 
regime populism was being overshadowed by the emergence of a 
bourgeois leadership preaching conservative values: class deference, 
respect for elders, female submission, the right to a fair profit, and 
the superiority of the private sector. To the extent that its program 
thus became indistinguishable, except in symbolism, from regime 
policies, a gap threatened to separate this leadership from its ple- 
beian following, splitting or enervating the movement. If the bour- 
geois leadership prevailed, the outcome was likely to be a gradual 
cooptation of the Islamic movement and Islamization of the regime 
rather than Islamic revolution. 

To the extent control mechanisms proved inadequate, a role re- 
mained for coercion and repression in the political system. Under 
Nasser coercive controls were very tight although largely directed 
at the upper class and limited numbers of middle-class opposition 
activists. Sadat initially relaxed controls, particularly over the bour- 
geoisie, but when opposition became too insistent, he did not hesi- 
tate to repress it. His massive 1981 purge showed how quickly the 
regime could change from conciliation to repression. Under the 
more tolerant Mubarak regime, political freedoms were still un- 
equally enjoyed. Dissent within regime institutions was tolerated, 
but when it crossed the line into mass action — such as Islamic street 
demonstrations for implementation of sharia and anti-Israeli pro- 
tests — it was regularly repressed. Strikes were also regularly smashed 
with the use of force. The regime continued to round up leftist and 
Islamic dissidents, charging them with belonging to illegal organi- 
zations or spreading antigovernment propaganda, apparently part 
of a strategy to keep dissent within manageable bounds. Indeed, 
the regime went so far as to arrest whole families of political dissi- 
dents and to hold them as virtual hostages in order to pressure sus- 
pects to surrender. 

The security apparatus, more massive than ever, contained the 
main episodes of violent challenge to the regime — notably the food 
riots and localized Islamic uprisings at Sadat's death. The Minis- 
try of Interior presided over several coercive arms including the 
General Directorate for State Security Investigations (GDSSI), the 
domestic security organization, and the gendarmerie-like Central 


Government and Politics 

Security Forces; behind the police stood the army itself (see Inter- 
nal Security, ch. 5). But there were signs that these forces were 
neither totally reliable nor effective. In the 1977 riots, the army 
reputedly refused to intervene unless the government rescinded the 
price rises, and scattered Nasserite and Islamic dissidence in the 
military continued in the 1980s. There were rivalries between the 
army and the Ministry of Interior, and disagreements inside the 
latter over whether dialogue or the iron fist could best deal with 
opposition. In 1986 the CSF itself revolted. Although the rebel- 
lion had no political program and was mainly sparked by worsen- 
ing treatment of the lower ranks, it signaled that the use of conscripts 
from the poorest sectors of society to contain radical opposition to 
a bourgeois regime was ever more risky. Yet the regime continued 
thereafter to use the CSF against students, strikers, and Islamic 
militants. Finally, the assassination of Sadat after his crackdown 
onl2the opposition showed that coercion could run two ways; ac- 
cording to its perpetrators, their purpose was "to warn all who come 
after him and teach them a lesson." 

Foreign Policy 

The Determinants of Foreign Policy 

Geopolitics inevitably shaped Egypt's foreign policy. Egypt oc- 
cupies a strategic position as a landbridge between two continents 
and a link between two principal waterways, the Mediterranean 
Sea and the Indian Ocean. It must therefore be strong enough to 
dominate its environment or risk becoming the victim of outside 
powers. Its security is also linked to control of the Nile, on whose 
waters its survival depends. It has, therefore, had historical ties 
with Sudan and has sought satisfactory relations with the states on 
Sudan's southern borders, Uganda and Zaire. The landbridge to 
Asia, route of potential conquerors, had also to be secured, and 
Egyptian rulers traditionally tried to project their power into Syr- 
ia and Arabia, often in contest with other powers in Anatolia 
(present-day Turkey), or the Euphrates River valley (present-day 
Iraq). In contemporary times, Israel, backed by a superpower, lo- 
cated on Egypt's border, and blocking its access to the east, was 
perceived as the greatest threat to Egyptian security. 

Egypt was also politically strategic. As Nasser saw it, with con- 
siderable justice, Egypt was potentially at the center of three "cir- 
cles," the African, the Arab, and the Islamic. Egypt viewed itself 
as playing a major role in Africa and, beyond that, was long a lead- 
ing mover in the wider Third World camp and a major advocate 
of neutralism and nonalignment. This geopolitical importance made 


Egypt: A Country Study 

the country the object of interest to the great powers, and when 
Egypt was strong enough, as under Nasser, allowed it to play the 
great powers against each other and win political support and eco- 
nomic and military aid from all sides. Even the weakened Egypt 
of Mubarak was able to parlay its strategic importance in the Arab- 
Israeli conflict and as a bulwark against Islamic political activism 
into political support and economic aid from both the West and 
the Arab world. 

A second constant that shaped Egypt's foreign policy was its 
Arab-Islamic character. To be sure, Egypt had a long pre-Islamic 
heritage that gave it a distinct identity, and in periods such as the 
British occupation it developed apart from the Arab world. Egypt's 
national identity was never merged in an undifferentiated Arabism; 
Egyptians were shaped by their own distinct geography, history, 
dialect, and customs. But the content of Egyptian identity was in- 
disputably Arab-Islamic. Egypt was inextricably a part of the Arab 
world. It was the largest Arabic- speaking country and the intellec- 
tual and political center to which the whole Arab world looked in 
modern times. It was also a center of Islamic civilization, its Al 
Azhar University one of Islam's major religious institutions and 
its popular culture profoundly Islamic. Although a portion of the 
most Westernized upper class at times saw Egypt as Mediterrane- 
an or pharaonic (see Glossary), for the overwhelming majority, 
Egypt's identity was Arab-Islamic. 

Indeed, Egypt saw itself as the leader of the Arab world, enti- 
tled to preeminence in proportion to the heavy burdens it bore in 
defense of the Arab cause. This Arab-Islamic identity was a great 
asset for Egyptian leaders. To the extent that Egyptian leadership 
was acknowledged in the Arab world, this prestige bolstered the 
stature of the ruler at home, entitled Egypt to a portion of Arab 
oil wealth, and gave credence to Egypt's ability to define a com- 
mon Arab policy, hence increasing the country's strategic weight 
in world affairs. This leadership position also meant that Egypt 
was a natural part of the inter- Arab power balance, typically em- 
broiled in the rivalries that split the Arab world and a part of the 
solidarities that united it. In the 1950s, modernizing, nationalist 
Egypt's rivals were traditional pro- Western Iraq and Saudi Ara- 
bia, and its main ally was Syria. In the 1970s, an alliance of Egypt, 
Syria, and Saudi Arabia led the Arab world in its search for peace 
with honor; when Sadat made a separate peace, Syria became 
Egypt's main rival. The country's Arab-Islamic identity also put 
certain constraints on foreign-policy decision makers: to violate it 
risked the legitimacy of the whole regime. 


Government and Politics 

Finally, Egypt's foreign policy was pulled in contrary directions 
by the ideals of anti-imperialist nonalignment and the webs of de- 
pendency in which the country was increasingly enmeshed. Egypt's 
long history of subordination to foreign rulers, especially Europe- 
an imperialism, produced an inferiority complex, an intense anti- 
imperialism, a quest for dignity, and, particularly under Nasser, 
a powerful national pride among Egyptians. Egypt's national ideal 
was to be independent of both East and West, to be a strong prosper- 
ous state, to stand up to Israel, and to lead the Arab world. Yet, as 
a poverty-stricken developing country and a new state actor in the 
international power game, Egypt could not do without large amounts 
of economic aid and military assistance from the advanced econo- 
mies and the great powers. Such dependency, of course, carried 
heavy costs and threats to national independence. The problem of de- 
pendency could be minimized by diversifying aid sources, and Nasser 
initially pursued a policy of balance between East and West, which 
won aid from both sides and minimized dependence on any one. 

United States support for Israel after the June 1967 War made 
Egypt ever more dependent on the Soviet Union for military aid 
and protection, but this dependence was, in part, balanced by in- 
creasing financial aid from the conservative Arab oil states. By the 
late 1970s, Sadat, in choosing to rely on American diplomacy to 
recover Egyptian land from Israel and in allowing his ties to the 
Soviet Union and the Arab world to wither, had led Egypt into 
heavy economic and military dependency on the United States. 
This dependency, by precluding foreign-policy decisions displeas- 
ing to Israel and Washington, sharply limited Egypt's pursuit of 
a vigorous Arab and independent foreign policy. The basic dilem- 
ma of Egypt's foreign policy was that its dependence on foreign 
assistance conflicted with its aspiration for national independence 
and its concept of its role as an Arab-Islamic and traditionally non- 
aligned entity. 

Foreign Policy Decision Making 

The great risks and opportunities inherent in Egypt's foreign 
relations made it inevitable that foreign policy dominated the lead- 
er' s political agenda. Performance on foreign policy could make 
or break the leadership. Nasser's charisma was rooted above all in 
his nationalist victories over "imperialism," and the decline of Nas- 
serism was a direct function of Egypt's 1967 defeat by Israel; simi- 
larly, Sadat's achievements in the October 1973 War gave him 
legitimacy, whereas his separate peace with Israel destroyed it. 

It was not surprising, therefore, that foreign policy was virtual- 
ly a "reserved sphere" of the presidency. Nasser concentrated and 


Egypt: A Country Study 

personalized foreign policy decision making in his own hands, taking 
alone such crucial decisions as the nationalization of the Suez Canal. 
Sadat asserted a similar prerogative; a major issue in the power 
struggle with left-wing Free Officers after Nasser's death was Sadat's 
insistence on his right to make independent foreign policy deci- 
sions, such as his offer to open the Suez Canal in return for a par- 
tial Israeli withdrawal from its banks and his decision to join the 
Federation of Arab Republics with Libya and Syria. Once he con- 
solidated his power, Sadat continued the tradition of presidential 
decision making in foreign policy, making many decisions in defi- 
ance of elite opinion and in disregard of professional military and 
diplomatic advice. In crucial negotiations over Sinai I and Sinai 
II, the disengagement agreements with Israel after the October 1973 
War, he excluded his top advisers from key sessions with United 
States secretary of state Henry Kissinger and overrode their ob- 
jections to many details of these agreements. He made his momen- 
tous decision to go to Jerusalem without even bothering to create 
an elite consensus behind him. As a result, both the minister of 
foreign affairs and his deputy resigned. Sadat allowed his top gener- 
als little say at Camp David. His unilateral concessions so often 
undermined the hand of his diplomats in the negotiations over the 
peace treaty with Israel that they sought to keep the Israelis away 
from him. Mubarak inherited the tradition of presidential domi- 
nance in foreign policy, but he seemed to make his decisions in 
closer consultation with his advisers, such as Usamah al Baz, Butrus 
Butrus Ghali, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ismat Abdul Majid. 

Despite presidential dominance, the Egyptian foreign policy 
bureaucracy was the most sophisticated and influential in the Arab 
world. Under the minister of foreign affairs was a minister of state 
for foreign affairs, a position long held by Butrus Ghali. Under 
them were a first undersecretary and a series of other undersecre- 
taries in charge of geographical areas (America, Africa, Asia, Eu- 
rope) and functional departments (economic affairs, cultural affairs, 
and the like). Al Ahram's Center for Political and Strategic Studies 
acted as a think tank in support of decision makers. Career diplo- 
mats were recruited chiefly through competitive examinations and 
trained at the Egyptian Diplomatic Institute. In 1982 Egypt had 
diplomatic relations with 95 foreign countries and had more than 
1,000 diplomatic service officers. 

The Development of Foreign Policy 

Despite certain constants, Egyptian foreign policy underwent 
substantial evolution shaped by the differing values and percep- 
tions of the country's presidents and the changing constraints and 



Tolls from ships on the Suez Canal are a major source 

of Egypt 's foreign exchange. 
Courtesy Embassy of Egypt, Washington 

opportunities of its environment. Under Nasser the core of the re- 
gime's ideology and the very basis of its legitimacy was radical 
nationalism. Nasser sought to end the legacy of Egypt's long politi- 
cal subordination to Western imperialism, to restore its Arab- 
Islamic identity diluted by a century of Westernization, and to 
launch independent national economic development. He also aimed 
to replace Western domination of the Arab states with Egyptian 
leadership of a nonaligned Arab world and thus to forestall security 
threats and to enhance Egypt's stature as head of a concert of 
kindred states. 

Nasser's foreign policy seemed, until 1967, a qualified success. 
He adeptly exploited changes in the international balance of pow- 
er, namely the local weakening of Western imperialism, the Soviet 
challenge to Western dominance, and the national awakening of 
the Arab peoples, to win a series of significant nationalist victo- 
ries. The long- sought British withdrawal from Egypt, the defeat 
of the security pacts by which the West sought to harness the Arabs 
against the Soviet Union, the successful nationalization of the Suez 
Canal, and the failure of the 1956 French-British-Israeli invasion 
put Egypt at the head of an aroused Arab nationalist movement 
and resulted in a substantial retreat of Western control from the 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Middle East. This policy also won political and economic benefits 
internally. The Arab adulation of Nasser was a major component 
of the regime's legitimacy. It was as leader of the Arab world that 
Egypt won substantial foreign assistance from both East and West. 

Nasser's success was, of course, only relative to the failure of pre- 
vious Arab leaders, and his policies had mounting costs. The other 
Arab regimes were unwilling to accept Egyptian hegemony and, 
although largely on the defensive, worked to thwart Nasser's effort 
to impose a foreign policy consensus on the Arab world. The effort 
to project Egyptian influence drained the country's resources; Egyp- 
tian intervention in support of the republican revolution (1962-70) 
in the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) was particularly costly. 
Generally, Nasser's Egypt failed to become the Prussia of the Arab 
world, but it played the decisive role in the emergence of an Arab 
state system independent of overt foreign control. 

Pan- Arab leadership, however, carried heavy responsibilities, 
including above all the defense of the Arab world and the champi- 
oning of the Arab and Palestinian cause against Israel. These 
responsibilities, which entailed grave economic burdens and secu- 
rity risks, eventually led Nasser into the disastrous June 1967 War 
with Israel. Nasser did not seek a war, but he allowed circumstances 
to bring on one that caught him unprepared. Nasser's challenge 
to Western interests in the region had earned him accumulated 
resentment in the West, where many perceived him as a Soviet 
client who should be brought down. At the same time, a rising 
Syrian-Palestinian challenge to Israel was peaking, threatening to 
provoke an Israeli attack on Syria. Despite an unfavorable mili- 
tary balance, Nasser, as leader of the Arab world, was obliged to 
deter Israel by mobilizing on its southern front. The mobilization 
opened the door to an Israeli "first strike" against Egypt. The rapid 
collapse of the Egyptian army in the war showed how far Nasser's 
foreign policy ambitions had exceeded his capabilities. Israel oc- 
cupied Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. The same nationalist foreign policy 
by which Nasser had ended the Western domination of Egypt had 
led him into a trap that entrenched a new foreign presence on Egyp- 
tian soil. 

Nasser's response to the crisis was twofold. In accepting the plan 
of United States secretary of state William P. Rogers, he signaled 
Egypt's readiness for a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli con- 
flict. This meant the acceptance of Israel and acknowledged the 
role of the United States as a dominant power broker in the Mid- 
dle East. Convinced that diplomacy alone, however, would never 
recover Sinai and skeptical of United States intentions, he launched 
a major overhaul and expansion of the armed forces and in the 


Government and Politics 

War of Attrition (1969-70) contested Israel's hold on the Sinai 
Peninsula. But the shattering of Egyptian self-confidence in the 1967 
defeat, the growing belief that the Soviet Union would not supply 
the offensive weapons for a military recovery of Sinai, and the con- 
viction that the United States would keep Israel strong enough to 
repulse any such recovery combined to convince a growing por- 
tion of the Egyptian political elite that the United States "held the 
cards" to a solution and that Cairo would have to come to terms 
with Washington. 

Sadat came to power ready for a diplomatic opening to the West, 
a political solution to the crisis, and a compromise setdement, even 
if it were a partial one. He sought a United States-sponsored peace, 
believing that only those who provided the Israelis with the means 
of occupation had the means to end it. The expulsion of the Soviet 
advisers from Egypt in 1972 was in part an effort to court Ameri- 
can favor. He also struck a close alliance with the conservative Arab 
oil states, headed by Saudi Arabia, whose influence in Washing- 
ton, money, and potential to use the "oil weapon" were crucial 
elements in building Egyptian leverage with Israel. Once it was 
clear that Egypt's interests would be ignored until Egyptians showed 
they could fight and upset a status quo comfortable to Israel and 
the United States, Sadat turned seriously to war as an option. But 
rather than a war to recapture Sinai, he decided on a strictly limited 
one to establish a bridgehead on the east bank of the Suez Canal 
as a way of breaking the Israeli grip on the area and opening the 
way for negotiations. Such a limited war, Sadat calculated, would 
rally the Arab world around Egypt, bring the oil weapon into play, 
challenge Israel's reliance on security through territorial expan- 
sion, and, above all, pave the way for a United States diplomatic 
intervention that would force Israel to accept a peaceful settlement. 
The price of an American peace, however, would almost certainly 
be an end to Egypt's anti-imperialist Arab nationalist policy. 

The October 1973 War did upset the status quo and ended with 
Egyptian forces in Sinai. But because Israeli forces had penetrat- 
ed the west bank of the Suez Canal, Sadat badly needed and ac- 
cepted a United States-sponsored disengagement of forces. Sinai 
I removed the Israelis from the west bank but, in defusing the war 
crisis, also reduced Arab leverage in bargaining for an overall Is- 
raeli withdrawal. In subsequently allowing his relations with the 
Soviet Union and Syria to deteriorate and hence decreasing the 
viability of war as an option, Sadat became so dependent on United 
States diplomacy that he had little choice but to accept a second par- 
tial and separate agreement, Sinai II, in which Egypt recovered 
further territory but was allowed a mere token military force in 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Sinai. This agreement so undermined Arab leverage that negotia- 
tions for a comprehensive peace stalled. A frustrated Sadat, hop- 
ing to win world support and weaken Israeli hard-liners, embarked 
on his trip to Jerusalem. Even if Israel refused concessions to Syria 
or the Palestinians, it might thereby be brought to relinquish Sinai 
in return for a separate peace that took Egypt out of the Arab-Israeli 
power balance. 

At Camp David and in the subsequent negotiations over a peace 
treaty, Sadat found out just how much his new diplomatic curren- 
cy would purchase: a return of Sinai and, at most, a relaxation 
of Israeli control over the West Bank ("autonomy"), but no Pales- 
tinian state (see Peace with Israel, ch. 1). By 1979 Egypt was fi- 
nally at peace. But because the separate peace removed any 
remaining incentive for Israel to settle on the other fronts, Egypt 
was ostracized from the Arab world, forfeiting its leadership and 
the aid to which this had entitled the country. 

Simultaneously, as Sadat broke his links with the Soviet Union 
and the Arab states and needed the United States increasingly to 
mediate with the Israelis, to provide arms, and to fill the aid gap, 
Sadat moved Egypt into an ever closer alliance with the United 
States. Particularly after the fall of the shah of Iran, he openly 
seemed to assume the role of guardian of United States interests 
in the area. Joint military maneuvers were held, facilities granted 
to United States forces, and Egyptian troops deployed to prop up 
conservative regimes, such as that of Zaire. Sadat seemingly rea- 
soned that Washington's support for Israel derived from its role 
in protecting United States interests in the area, and if he could 
arrogate that role to himself, then Egypt would be eligible for the 
same aid and support and the importance of Israel to Washington 
would decline. The Egypt that had led the fight to expel Western 
influence from the Arab world now welcomed it back. 

Mubarak's main foreign policy challenge was to resolve the con- 
tradiction between the standards of nationalist legitimacy estab- 
lished under Nasser and the combination of close United States 
and Israeli connections and isolation from the Arab world brought 
on by Sadat's policies. It took Mubarak nearly a decade to make 
any significant progress, however, because Sadat's legacy proved 
quite durable. The regime's dependence on the United States was 
irreversible: for arms, for cheap food to maintain social peace, 
and — especially as oil-linked earnings plummeted — for US$2 bil- 
lion in yearly aid to keep the economy afloat. Dependency dictated 
continuing close political and military alignment largely aimed at 
radical nationalist forces in the Arab world — not at Israel, Egypt's 
traditional enemy since 1948. Mubarak had to maintain the Israeli 


Government and Politics 

connection despite the lack of progress toward a comprehensive 
peace or recognition of Palestinian rights. He remained passive 
during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, a major blow to the 
Arab world made possible largely by Israel's no longer needing 
to station substantial forces along the southern front as a result of 
the Camp David Accords. This invasion and the Israeli raids on 
Iraq in 1981 and on Tunis in 1986 showed how Sadat had opened 
the Arab world to Israeli power as never before. 

Mubarak did recover some foreign policy independence. He re- 
jected pressures from the United States government in late 1985 
and early 1986 for joint action against Libya, and he restored Cai- 
ro's diplomatic relations with Moscow. Moreover, he had some 
leverage over the United States: Washington had invested so much 
in Egypt and gained so much from Sadat's policies — defusing the 
threat of an Arab-Israeli war, rolling back the influence of the Soviet 
Union and radicals in the Arab world — that it could not afford to 
alienate the regime or to let it go under. 

The continuing Israeli- American connection deepened Egypt's 
crisis of nationalist legitimacy, however. Israel was widely seen in 
Egypt as having "betrayed" the peace by its rejection of Palestin- 
ian rights; its attempt to keep the Sinai enclave of Taba; and its 
attacks on Iraq, Lebanon, and Tunis. Evidence of the Egyptians' 
deep resentment of Israeli policy was demonstrated by the way they 
made a folk hero of Sulayman Khatir, a policeman who killed Is- 
raeli tourists in 1985. Egyptians also resented economic dependency 
on the United States, and the United States' forcing down of an 
Egyptian aircraft after the Achille Lauro incident in October 1985 
was taken as a national insult and set off the first nationalist street 
disturbances in years. This sentiment did not become a mass move- 
ment able to force a policy change despite demands by opposition 
leaders and isolated attacks on Israeli and American officials by 
disgruntled "Nasserist" officers. But few governments anywhere 
have been saddled with so unpopular a foreign policy. 

What saved the regime was that Mubarak's astute diplomacy 
and the mistakes of his rivals allowed him to achieve a gradual re- 
integration of Egypt into the Arab world without prejudice to 
Egypt's Israeli links. The first break in Egypt's isolation came when 
Yasir Arafat's 1983 quarrel with Syria enabled Egypt to extend 
him protection and assume patronage of the Palestinian resistance. 
Then the Arab oil states, fearful of Iran and of the spread of Shia 
Islamic activism, looked to Egypt for a counterbalance. Thus, 
Mubarak was able to demonstrate Egypt's usefulness to the Arabs 
and to inch out of his isolation. Egypt's 1989 readmission to the 
League of Arab States (Arab League) crowned his efforts. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Mubarak's Egypt viewed its role in the Arab world as that of 
a mediator, particularly in trying to advance the peace process be- 
tween Israel and the Arabs. Thus, the regime invested its prestige 
in the 1989 attempt to bridge differences between Israel and the 
Palestinians over West Bank elections. By 1990 these efforts had 
not resolved the stalemate over Palestinian rights, but the restora- 
tion of ties between Egypt and Syria amounted to a Syrian ac- 
knowledgment that Egypt's peace with Israel was irreversible. Thus, 
Egypt's rehabilitation as a major power in the Arab world was com- 
pleted, undoing a good bit of the damage done to regime legitimacy 
under Sadat. 

After Egypt had established its alliance with the United States, 
the formerly significant roles of non-Arab powers in Egyptian for- 
eign policy waned. Relations with Western Europe remained im- 
portant, if secondary. With some success, Egypt regularly sought 
the intervention of West European governments with its interna- 
tional creditors. When the United States commitment to pushing 
the peace process beyond Camp David stalled, Egypt also looked 
to Europe to pressure Israel, but the Europeans were, in this respect, 
no substitute for Washington. 

The role of the Soviet Union dwindled even more dramatically. 
Under Nasser, Moscow was Cairo's main military supplier and 
political protector and a main market and source of development 
assistance; Soviet aid helped build such important projects as the 
Aswan High Dam and the country's steel industry. Without Soviet 
arms Egypt would have been helpless to mount the October 1973 
War that broke the Israeli grip on Sinai. But Sadat's 1972 expul- 
sion of Soviet advisers and his subsequent reliance on the United 
States to recover the rest of Sinai soured relations with the Soviet 
Union. Wanting American diplomatic help and economic largesse, 
Sadat had to portray Egypt to United States interests as a bulwark 
against Soviet threats; under these conditions Soviet relations nat- 
urally turned hostile and were broken in 1980. Under Mubarak 
amicable — but still low-key — relations were reestablished. Mubarak 
sought better Soviet relations to enhance his leverage over the Unit- 
ed States, but Moscow was in no position to offer a credible threat 
to American influence. 

In 1 990 Mubarak governed a state that was the product of both 
persistence and change. Continuity was manifest in the durability 
of the structures built by Nasser. The authoritarian presidency re- 
mained the command post of the state. Nasserist policies — from 
Arab nationalism to the food subsidies and the public sector — cre- 
ated durable interests and standards of legitimacy. Under Sadat Egypt 
had accommodated itself to the dominant forces in the regime's 


Government and Politics 

environment; in Sadat's "postpopulist" regime, charisma, social 
reform, and leadership of the Arab world achieved by Nasser gave 
way to their opposites. Sadat had also adapted the state to new con- 
ditions, altering the goals and style of presidential power and liber- 
alizing the political structure. The survival of most of Sadat's work 
under Mubarak suggested that, more successfully than Nasser, he 
had partially institutionalized it in a massive political structure, 
an alliance with the dominant social forces, and a web of constraints 
against significant change. Under Mubarak the state's ability to 
manipulate its environment retreated before rising societal forces 
and powerful external constraints. But Mubarak also consolidated 
the limited liberalization of the political system and restored an 
Arab role for Egypt. Although it cost the concession of its initial 
ideology, the Egyptian state resulting from the Nasser-led 1952 
Revolution had shown a remarkable capacity to survive in the face 
of intense pressures. 

Yet Sadat's innovations, in stimulating rising autonomous forces 
while narrowing regime options, had set change in motion. Although 
the massive bureaucratic state was sure to persist, the capitalist forc- 
es unleashed by the infitah contained the seeds of countervailing 
power, the social basis for further political liberalization. The widen- 
ing inequality and social mobilization precipitated by capitalist de- 
velopment threatened, however, to produce growing class conflicts. 
In a regime with precarious legitimacy, these conflicts could spell 
instability or revolution and could require continuing authoritari- 
an control. Should rising economic constraints force the govern- 
ment to abandon the residues of populism, such a regime might 
have an ever more repressive face. If this increasing repression were 
accompanied by accommodation between the regime and political 
Islam, the end might be conservative rule by consensus; otherwise, 
a crumbling of the secular state under pressures from the street 
and defections within could still produce a new Islamic order. At 
the beginning of the 1990s, however, the regime was continuing 
its established course, avoiding radical turns to left or right, and 
mixing doses of limited liberalization, limited repression, and limit- 
ed Islamization. 

Still the most insightful overviews of the Nasser regime are Anou- 
ar Abdel-Malek's Marxist interpretation, Egypt: Military Society, 
Richard Hrair Dekmejian's elite-centered analysis, Egypt under Nasir, 
Nazih Ayubi's Bureaucracy and Politics in Contemporary Egypt, and P.J. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Vatikiotis's The Egyptian Army in Politics. Robert Stephens's Nas- 
ser: A Political Biography is the best biography of Nasser, masterfully 
situating his personal role in the wider political context. Raymond 
A. Hinnebusch, Jr.'s Egyptian Politics under Sadat is the only com- 
prehensive overview of the Sadat era, and Robert Springborg's 
Mubarak's Egypt is the only one on the current era. 

A number of major works that bridge several eras are recom- 
mended. John Waterbury's political economy study, The Egypt of 
Nasser and Sadat, is essential reading. The work edited by Gouda 
Abdel-Khalek and Robert L. Tignor, The Political Economy of In- 
come Distribution in Egypt, updates the political economy picture into 
the late Sadat era. Springborg gives cultural and social dimensions 
to politics in his analysis of family and patrimonial politics, Family 
Power and Politics in Egypt, while Hamied Ansari's Egypt: The Stalled 
Society and Leonard Binder's In a Moment of Enthusiasm argue the 
centrality of the rural notables. Henry Clement Moore's elite study, 
Images of Development, is a story of technocracy derailed by patrimonial- 
ism. Patrimonialism is also identified as the undoing of the revo- 
lution in Raymond Baker's Egypt's Uncertain Revolution under Nasser 
and Sadat and J .P . Vatikiotis's Nasser and His Generation. Muhammed 
Hassanain Haikal has written a number of illuminating "insider" 
accounts from a Nasserist point of view, in particular The Road to 
Ramadan and The Autumn of Fury. Sadat's autobiography, In Search 
of Identity, looks at many of the same issues and events through differ- 
ent eyes. Useful studies with narrower, more in-depth foci include 
Iliya Harik's The Political Mobilization of Peasants, Richard H. 
Adams's Development and Social Change in Rural Egypt, Adeed 
Dawisha's Egypt in the Arab World, and Gilles Kepel's Muslim Ex- 
tremism in Egypt. (For further information and complete citations, 
see Bibliography.) 


Chapter 5. National 


Hawk at entrance to the hypostyle hall of the Temple of Edfu (Idfu) 

EGYPT IS LOCATED in a region characterized by tension and 
conflict. Since Egypt's war with Israel in 1973, however, the threat 
of military confrontation with neighboring countries has steadily 
subsided. As of 1990, the government was in the process of reduc- 
ing the size of its armed forces relative to the size of the popula- 
tion. At the same time, the armed forces were modernizing their 
command structure and updating their arms and equipment. With 
448,000 troops, Egypt in 1990 remained one of the major military 
powers in the Middle East. 

The four services — the army, navy, air force, and Air Defense 
Force — included conscripts and some volunteers. The average con- 
script served three years in the military, although people who had 
completed higher education served shorter terms. The military also 
had a liberal exemption policy. 

Since the Free Officers' coup in 1952, career military officers 
have headed Egypt's government, and senior officers have played 
an influential role in the nation's affairs. The military's involve- 
ment in government has diminished since the 1970s, although rank- 
ing members of the officer corps have continued to fill the positions 
of minister of defense (who served concurrently as commander in 
chief of the armed forces) and minister of interior. 

Egypt's military leaders enjoyed a reputation for competence and 
professionalism; many of these leaders had advanced training at 
foreign military institutes and combat experience as junior officers 
during the October 1973 War. 

As of 1990, much of the military was still equipped with arms 
provided by the Soviet Union between the late 1950s and 
mid-1970s. In 1979 the United States began supplying Egypt with 
arms. With the exception of Israel, Egypt was the largest recipient 
of United States military aid during the 1980s. Its impressive stock 
of weaponry from all sources nevertheless did not match that of 
Israel in terms of modern armor and combat aircraft. 

Egypt has made substantial progress in expanding its own arms 
industry, but this progress depended on assistance from several 
Western countries. During the 1980s, the army began to play an 
important role in Egypt's development efforts; it built roads, irri- 
gation and communications systems, and housing. It also produced 
food and industrial products. These activities demonstrated that 
the military could be an asset to the country even during periods 
of peace. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

The country faced no threat of invasion as of early 1990, but 
extreme Islamic groups fanned internal tensions. The police and 
the government's intelligence service were fairly successful in con- 
trolling Muslim extremists' activities, which included arson and 
attempts to assassinate government officials. 

During the 1980s, elements of the military were involved in activi- 
ties aimed at destabilizing the government. Religious conspirators 
in the army, seeking to overthrow the government, assassinated 
President Anwar as Sadat in 1981. But overall, the armed forces 
remained loyal to the regime and supported the peaceful transi- 
tion of power from Sadat to the vice president and former air force 
commander Husni Mubarak. Troops again upheld internal order 
in 1986 by quashing riots of conscripts from the Central Security 
Forces, a paramilitary police body, protesting against harsh treat- 

Military Heritage 

It was not until the period of the New Kingdom (1552-664 B.C.) 
that standing military units were formed, including the appear- 
ance of chariotry and the organization of infantry into companies 
of about 250 men. Egyptian armies then became militarily involved 
in the Near East, contending for Syria and Palestine. By the later 
periods beginning in the seventh century B.C., foreign mercenar- 
ies formed the core of Egyptian military power. From the time 
Greek rule was established in 332 B.C. until 1952 A.D., the coun- 
try was subject to foreign domination. Under the successive con- 
trol of Persian, Greek, Roman, Arab, Turkish, French, and British 
forces, the Egyptians remained disdainful of the military. In 1951 
a prominent Egyptian author described military service as "an ob- 
ject of ridicule, a laughingstock which is to be avoided whenever 
possible." He added that the military was "left for the poor and 
uneducated" and called it "a derisory profession commanding con- 
tempt rather than honor or pride." 

Under Muhammad Ali, the Albanian soldier who governed 
Egypt during the first half of the nineteenth century, a conscript- 
ed Egyptian army pursued campaigns on behalf of the Ottoman 
sultan in the Arabian Peninsula, Sudan, and Greece. In a disagree- 
ment over the control of Syria, his army, consisting of more than 
250,000 Egyptians, advanced nearly to Constantinople (formerly 
Byzantium; present-day Istanbul) before the European powers pres- 
sured him into withdrawing (see Muhammad Ali, 1805-48, ch. 
1). After the deaths of Muhammad Ali and his son, Ibrahim, 
Egypt's military strength declined, and the country slipped increas- 
ingly under European control. In 1879 a nationalist revolt erupted 


National Security 

over proposed restrictions to prevent Egyptians from entering the 
officer corps. Ahmad Urabi, an Egyptian colonel, led the coun- 
trywide uprising which was suppressed after British troops crushed 
the Egyptians in 1882. 

The British began their era of domination in Egypt and assumed 
responsibility for defending the country and the Suez Canal, which 
were of particular interest to the British Empire. The British dis- 
banded the Egyptian army, and recreated it by incorporating Egyp- 
tian units staffed by British officers into British commands. British 
regiments remained to defend the canal. To mobilize personnel 
for the Egyptian units, the British resorted to irregular conscrip- 
tion among the fellahin (peasants), who went to great lengths to 
avoid military service. Potential conscripts, however, could make 
a cash payment in lieu of service. This practice resulted in units 
that were staffed mostly by the poorest members of society. Egyp- 
tians who became officers were almost always from wealthy and 
distinguished families. 

Egyptian nationalism intensified after World War I, and with 
certain reservations, Britain granted Egypt independence in 1922. 
Britain transferred command over the armed forces to Egyptians 
but retained a British inspector general at the top. The Anglo- 
Egyptian Treaty of 1936, however, eliminated this vestige of Brit- 
ish control. Egypt then expanded the army, making enrollment 
in the Military Academy and a subsequent army career much more 
attainable and desirable for young middle-class Egyptians. 

The Egyptian Military in World War II 

Before World War II, military service was compulsory for men 
between the ages of nineteen and twenty-seven, but because of the 
limited size of the army — about 23,000 in 1939 — few were actual- 
ly conscripted. During World War II, Egypt's army grew to about 
100,000 troops. Britain maintained a strong influence in the mili- 
tary and provided it with equipment, instruction, and technicians. 
Under the terms of the 1936 treaty, British troops remained in the 
country to defend the Suez Canal. During the war, Egypt became 
the principal Allied base in the Middle East. 

Egypt severed relations with the Axis powers soon after the out- 
break of World War II but remained technically neutral until near 
the end of the war. The Italians first brought the war to Egypt in 
1940 but were repelled by the British. In late 1941, the German 
Afrika Korps entered western Egypt and threatened the country 
and the canal. But the British Eighth Army defeated the German 
force at Al Alamayn in October 1942. Some Egyptians flew patrol 
duty in British planes with British pilots during the war, and Egypt 


Egypt: A Country Study 

inaugurated a naval service with a few patrol boats supplied by 
Britain. Egyptians were used primarily for guard duty and logisti- 
cal tasks rather than fc r combat. Some Egyptian officers favored 
Germany as a way to end Britain's influence in the country. (The 
British had imprisoned Anwar as Sadat because of his pro-German 
activities.) Aware of such sentiments, the British command was 
reluctant to employ Egyptian units in combat even after King Faruk 
formally declared war against the Axis in February 1945. 

First Arab-Israeli War 

During the First Arab-Israeli War (1948-49), an Egyptian in- 
vasion force of 7,000 men crossed the Palestinian border at Rafah 
on the Mediterranean coast and at Al Awja (Nizzana) farther in- 
land (see fig. 7). They soon reached Ashdod, less than thirty-five 
kilometers from Tel Aviv. But by the time the first truce ended 
in mid-July, the Israelis had reinforced their positions, beating off 
Egyptian attacks and recovering territory to protect Jewish settle- 
ments in the Negev. By the fall of 1948, the Israelis put Egypt's 
18,000 troops deployed in Palestine on the defensive and penetrated 
the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt and Israel concluded an armistice un- 
der United Nations (UN) auspices at the end of 1948 and later 
agreed on a cease-fire line that generally followed the prewar bound- 
ary between Palestine and Sinai. But Egyptian forces still occupied 
and administered the narrow coastal strip of southwestern Pales- 
tine, the Gaza Strip.' 

The venality and ineffectiveness of the Faruk regime were the 
main causes of Egypt's failures in the war. Although inexperienced, 
Egypt's troops had performed well in defensive operations before 
being driven back by the Israelis. 

A coup d'etat in 1952 toppled Faruk' s regime and brought to 
power younger officers of the Free Officers' movement (see The 
Revolution and the Early Years of the New Government, 1952-56, 
ch. 1). From then on, Egypt gave priority to the development of 
the military. In 1955 the government enacted the National Mili- 
tary Service Law, which aimed at reforming and upgrading the 
armed forces. 

The 1956 War 

After President Gamal Abdul Nasser's seizure of the Suez Canal 
in July 1956, the British, French, and Israelis began coordinating 
an invasion. On October 29, 1956, the Israelis struck across Sinai 
toward the canal and southward toward Sharm ash Shaykh to relieve 
the Egyptian blockade of the Gulf of Aqaba. At the crossroads of 
Abu Uwayqilah, thirty kilometers from the Israeli border, and at 


National Security 

the Mitla Pass, Egyptian troops resisted fiercely, repelling several 
attacks by larger Israeli forces. British and French forces bombed 
Egyptian air bases, causing Nasser to withdraw Egyptian troops 
from Sinai to protect the canal. At the heavily fortified complex 
of Rafah in the northwestern corner of Sinai and at other points, 
the Egyptians carried out effective delaying actions before retreat- 
ing. Egypt vigorously defended Sharm ash Shaykh in the extreme 
south until two advancing Israeli columns took control of the area. 
At Port Said (Bur Said), at the north end of the canal, Egyptian 
soldiers battled the initial British and French airborne assault, but 
resistance quickly collapsed when allied forces landed on the beach 
with support from heavy naval gunfire. 

The performance of many of the Egyptian units was determined 
and resourceful in the face of the qualitative and numerical superi- 
ority of the invaders. Nasser claimed that Egypt had not been defeat- 
ed by the Israelis but that it had been forced to abandon Sinai to 
defend the canal against the Anglo-French attacks. According to 
foreign military observers, about 1,650 of Egypt's ground forces 
were killed in the campaign. Another 4,900 were wounded, and 
more than 6,000 were captured or missing. 

Respect for the armed forces grew in response to Nasser's rise 
to political preeminence in the Arab world, his widespread sup- 
port among Egyptians, hostility toward Israel, and the broadened 
base of military service. But Egypt's army suffered a psychologi- 
cal setback in September 1962 when it intervened unsuccessfully 
in a civil war in what later became the Yemen Arab Republic (North 
Yemen) (see Egypt and the Arab World, ch. 1). Nasser moved large 
numbers of Egyptian troops into the country after a group of Yeme- 
ni army officers staged a coup against the royalist regime. The num- 
ber of Egyptian troops in the country rose from 20,000 in 1963 
to 70,000 by 1965. The Egyptians, who were not well trained or 
equipped for battle in Yemen's rugged mountain terrain, failed 
to defeat the royalists. Some of Egypt's best troops were still stale- 
mated in Yemen when Israel attacked Egypt in 1967. 

The June 1967 War 

In the eleven years leading up to the June 1967 War (also seen 
as the Arab-Israeli War and the Six-Day War), the military had 
been intensively trained for combat and outfitted with new Soviet 
weapons and equipment. Despite these preparations, the war proved 
to be a debacle for Egypt. Although there had been many indica- 
tions that an attack was imminent, the Israelis still took Egypt by 
surprise on June 5, when their aircraft approached from the 
Mediterranean at low altitudes to avoid detection by radar and 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Figure 7. Principal Military Installations in the Sinai Peninsula, 

attacked the Egyptian air force while it was still on the ground. 
Within three hours, the Israelis had destroyed 300 Egyptian com- 
bat aircraft, including all of Egypt's 30 long-range bombers. Israel 
focused its ground attack on the heavily fortified Sinai road junction 


National Security 

of Abu Uwayqilah as it had done in 1956. After a fierce battle, 
the Israelis overwhelmed Egyptian forces in fewer than twelve hours. 
The devastating air attacks and initial Israeli ground successes 
panicked Egyptian commander in chief Field Marshal Abdul Hakim 
Amir into withdrawing army units from Sinai to the west bank of 
the Suez Canal. Staff officers later persuaded Amir to rescind his 
order, but by that time all the main elements of the four frontline 
divisions had already begun retreating westward. At several points, 
rearguard actions delayed Israeli advances, but Israeli forces man- 
aged to block bottlenecks in the Giddi Pass and the Mitla Pass and 
at Bir al Jifjafah and prevented the escape of Egyptian troops and 
equipment. The Israeli air force bombed and strafed thousands 
of Egyptian tanks, guns, and vehicles caught in the bottleneck. 

After four days of intensive fighting, Israel controlled the entire 
Sinai Peninsula up to the east bank of the canal. Egypt acknowl- 
edged that of approximately 100,000 troops in Sinai, 10,000 soldiers 
and 1,500 officers were casualties. Observers estimated that about 
half of the dead had succumbed to thirst or exhaustion in the desert. 
A further 5,000 soldiers and 500 officers were captured, many of 
whom were wounded. Israel also destroyed or captured about 700 
of Egypt's 930 tanks. Popular support for the military subsided 
rapidly after the June 1967 War, and morale within the forces 
plunged to its lowest level since before the military takeover of 1952. 
Although individually and in some cases as units the Egyptians 
often performed bravely, the Israeli army again demonstrated the 
self-reliance of its unit leaders, its better training, and the superi- 
or use of its armor. 

War of Attrition and the October 1973 War 

After conquering Sinai, the Israelis constructed the Bar- Lev Line, 
a series of thirty-three small, heavily fortified observation posts atop 
sand ramparts eight to ten meters high along the east bank of the 
Suez Canal. They built a second sand embankment several kilo- 
meters behind the first one. Both embankments had firing ramps 
for roving armored patrols. In January 1969, Egypt began the War 
of Attrition with an intensive eighty-day bombardment along the 
whole canal. Israeli positions along the Bar-Lev Line survived the 
attack but suffered heavy damage. Egypt followed the attack with 
commando raids on the line itself and against Israeli patrols and 
rear installations. Israel launched a severe reprisal that included 
bombing raids against military and strategic targets deep in the 
interior of Egypt. The relative ineffectiveness of Egypt's Soviet SA-2 
high-altitude surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) against the Israeli raids 
necessitated the introduction of low-level SA-3 SAMs, manned 


Egypt: A Country Study 

mostly by Soviet technicians. Egypt reinforced the new missiles 
with more than 100 MiG-21 aircraft flown by Soviet pilots. Egypt's 
revitalized air defense system succeeded in destroying a consider- 
able number of Israeli aircraft. Still, in the only major battle be- 
tween Israeli and Soviet fighters, the Israeli air force quickly 
prevailed. In August 1970, a cease-fire negotiated by the United 
States with Soviet support ended the fighting between Israel and 

Sadat, who succeeded Nasser in September 1970, assumed the 
responsibility of managing the international and domestic pressures 
that were impelling Egypt and the Middle East toward another war. 
Although the Soviets had replaced the enormous amounts of arms 
and equipment lost during the June 1967 War, Sadat and other 
Egyptian military leaders had become wary of the Soviet military's 
increasing influence on national affairs. In mid- 1972 Sadat dis- 
missed most of the Soviet advisers as part of his preparations for 
recovering Sinai. In January 1973, Egypt began planning a top- 
secret project known as Operation Badr in conjunction with Syria. 

Early in the afternoon of October 6, 1973, Egypt launched the 
operation with a massive artillery barrage against Israeli positions 
on the eastern bank of the Suez Canal. Water cannons mounted 
on pontoons sliced gaps in the high sandbank of the Bar-Lev Line, 
permitting armored vehicles to cross on assault craft. By midnight 
ten bridges and fifty ferries had carried 80,000 Egyptian troops 
across the waterway and one kilometer beyond the embankment. 
Almost all of the armor of the Egyptian Second Army and Third 
Army crossed the following day. By October 9, the Egyptian bridge- 
heads were seven to ten kilometers east of the canal. The Soviet- 
supplied antitank missiles and rockets repulsed the initial Israeli 
counterattacks. The newer Soviet SAMs protected Egyptian forces 
from Israeli air attacks, but as Egyptian troops advanced beyond 
the missile defenses, they were exposed to punishing air attacks. 

On October 14, Egyptian armored columns took the offensive 
to try to seize the main routes leading to Tasa and the Giddi and 
Mitla passes. In the largest tank battle since World War II, the 
Egyptian attack failed when Israeli gunnery proved superior, and 
the Israelis' defensive positions gave them an added advantage. 
Mounting a strong counterattack, the Israelis thrust toward the 
canal and narrowly succeeded in crossing it just north of Great Bitter 
Lake. Egyptian forces on the east bank heavily contested Israel's 
weak link to the canal bridgehead, but by October 19, the Israelis 
succeeded in breaking out west of the canal. Stubborn Egyptian 
defenses prevented the loss of the cities of Ismailia (Al Ismailiyah) 


United Nations Emergency Force and Israeli officers meeting with 
beduins in southern Sinai Peninsula, 1975 
Courtesy United Nations, Y. Nagata 

and Suez at the southern end of the canal until a UN cease-fire 
took effect on October 24, 1973. Before the cease-fire, however, 
the Israelis had isolated the Egyptian Third Army on the east bank 
of the canal. 

Under a disengagement agreement reached on January 17, 1974, 
Israel withdrew its forces from west of the canal while Egyptian 
forces withdrew from the east bank to a depth of about eight kilo- 
meters. The agreement also provided for a United Nations Emer- 
gency Force (UNEF) to occupy a north- south buffer strip about 
eight kilometers wide and allowed a limited number of Israeli troops 
to occupy a similar zone to the east of the UNEF. 

Although Egypt's armed forces suffered severely in the October 
1973 War, the losses were not nearly as heavy as they had been 
in 1967. Of the combined strength of 200,000 in Egypt's Second 
and Third armies, approximately 8,000 men were killed in com- 
bat. Egypt also lost more than 200 aircraft, 1,100 tanks, and large 
quantities of other weapons, vehicles, and equipment. Despite these 
losses, the effect of the war on the armed forces was as exhilarat- 
ing as the defeat in 1967 had been debilitating. Although they had 
not recovered Sinai, their initial successes in securing the east bank 
of the canal had an important positive psychological impact on the 


Egypt: A Country Study 

armed forces. The war enabled Egypt to negotiate from strength 
rather than from the abject weakness of the post- 1967 period. At 
the same time, Egypt had proved that it was capable of successful 
military planning and of inflicting painful losses on Israel. 

Security Concerns and Strategic Perspectives 

After the disengagement agreement of 1974, the threat of an Is- 
raeli attack on Egypt diminished significantly, and a second dis- 
engagement agreement was concluded in 1975. In 1979 Egypt and 
Israel signed a treaty of peace under which Israel agreed to with- 
draw its forces in stages from the Sinai Peninsula, further reduc- 
ing the likelihood of a new conflict between the two countries. 

Nevertheless, Egypt's experience of four wars with Israel con- 
tinued to shape the thinking of Egyptian military planners. In 1986 
Egyptian commander in chief Abdul Halim Abu Ghazala assert- 
ed that Israel still embraced a strategy of maintaining military 
strength superior to that of all of its neighbors combined. Egypt's 
policy, he declared, was to "neutralize" this strength so that it could 
not be used for aggressive purposes threatening the security of the 
Arab states. 

A chain of Egyptian fortifications east of the Suez Canal was 
manned by the equivalent of about one-half of a mechanized divi- 
sion, which was less than Egypt was permitted under the peace 
treaty. Annual military exercises practiced reinforcement of Sinai 
by the five Egyptian divisions that could be quickly deployed across 
the canal. Egypt's deployments in the area had a defensive charac- 
ter, however, and its forces west of the canal occupied permanent 
bases that had existed for many years. 

In addition to its concern about Israel, Egypt's 1,000-kilometer 
border with Libya remained a problem for Egyptian defense plan- 
ners in 1990 despite a campaign of reconciliation by Libya's lead- 
er, Muammar al Qadhafi. Egypt believed that Qadhafi had amassed 
a stockpile of Soviet weaponry beyond any foreseeable defensive 
needs and was seeking additional advanced weaponry, including 
Soviet MiG-29 combat fighters and medium-range missiles. Libya 
had an estimated 40,000 troops backed by modern tanks, missiles, 
and combat aircraft at air bases adjacent to the Egyptian- Libyan 
border. Although Qadhafi announced in May 1988 that all com- 
bat forces would be pulled back from the border, the Egyptian 
minister of defense claimed in 1989 that a major part of the Liby- 
an army was still deployed along the border zone. 

Sudan, Egypt's neighbor to the south, presented no direct mili- 
tary problem for Egypt. The border between the two countries was 
unguarded except for policing to prevent smuggling and drug 


National Security 

trafficking. Because the two countries shared a long cultural and 
political history, Egypt regarded Sudanese territory as providing 
added depth to the country's strategic defenses. Egypt was report- 
edly concerned about the coup in Sudan in June 1989 that brought 
to power a group of military officers identified with Islamism. The 
deterioration of Sudan's economy and internal security, accentu- 
ated by the mismanagement of the military junta, posed the danger 
of instability on Egypt's southern flank. 

Egypt's role in Sudan was linked to its general policy promot- 
ing African regional stability and moderation. Egypt provided mili- 
tary assistance and advisers to Nigeria, Somalia, and Zaire and 
focused on Africa in marketing the products of its defense indus- 
try. Egypt sold arms to African nations that agreed to use them 
only for national defense rather than for domestic control over their 

Egypt believed that the Red Sea was of vital interest to the coun- 
try 's strategic objectives because this body of water was closely as- 
sociated with the security of the Suez Canal. Egypt believed, more- 
over, that any threats to the security of the nations surrounding 
the Persian Gulf or on the Arabian Peninsula could signal a threat 
to its own security. Against threats from Iran, Egypt had pledged 
its support to the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), 
including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab 
Emirates, and Oman. Egypt also expressed a willingness to play 
a larger role in the Persian Gulf through the provision of military 
advice, training, and sales of arms and equipment. Egypt chose, 
however, not to participate in a joint Arab force, which had been 
proposed to protect the GCC states against Iran. Egypt provided 
large quantities of arms to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War, and thou- 
sands of Egyptians were working in Iraq. 

The Military in National Life 

The military became one of the most important factors in Egyp- 
tian politics after the overthrow of the monarchy in 1952. Nasser 
appointed members of the officer corps to senior positions in the 
bureaucracy and public sector to help implement his social revo- 
lution. But in the later years of the Nasser regime, fewer military 
figures occupied high government posts. Even fewer held posts dur- 
ing the Sadat and Mubarak regimes. Nevertheless, senior gener- 
als on active service continued to hold the key positions in agencies 
responsible for national security — the Ministry of Defense and the 
Ministry of Interior — as of early 1990. 

After the June 1967 War, which tarnished the reputation of the 
military leadership, Nasser purged many officers from government. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Sadat further reduced the military's influence in government by 
removing strong military figures who were liable to challenge his 
policies and by insisting on greater professionalism in the event 
of renewed conflict with Israel. He appointed fewer active or re- 
tired officers to high positions, although he named air force com- 
mander Husni Mubarak as vice president. Sadat was careful, 
however, to protect the career interests of professional soldiers and 
to provide for the material requirements of the military. Although 
the size of the armed forces had decreased after peace with Israel, 
the officer complement remained intact. Egypt's expanding rela- 
tionship with the United States after 1974 assured a continued sup- 
ply of modern weapons. 

The performance of the army during the October 1973 War 
helped restore the military's prestige and served to justify Sadat's 
emphasis on professionalism instead of involvement in civilian pol- 
itics (see Politics among Elites, ch. 4). The military leadership's 
views continued to have an important influence on the formula- 
tion of defense and national security policies. Opposition politi- 
cians, who had become more vocal during the Mubarak regime, 
insisted upon open debate on defense strategy, the privileges of the 
officer corps, and the share of national resources allocated to defense. 

The armed forces played a role in maintaining domestic stabili- 
ty, although only under the most compelling circumstances had 
they actually been called upon in a domestic crisis. These occa- 
sions included the violent 1977 food riots and an uprising of con- 
scripts of the Central Security Forces in Cairo (Al Qahirah) and 
other cities in 1986 (see Police, this ch.). The military leadership 
noted pointedly that the army units returned to their barracks as 
soon as both emergencies had ended. The efficiency and profes- 
sionalism the armed forces demonstrated during these emergen- 
cies reinforced the public's perception that the army was the ultimate 
safeguard against militant Islamists or others who might threaten 
civil authority. 

Mubarak's firm control over the military enabled him to re- 
strict the influence of the officer corps over political decision mak- 
ing. His encouragement of democratizing tendencies in the political 
system led to previously unexpressed public criticism of the mili- 
tary's privileges and its demands on the economy. Much of the 
debate over the military's role during the Mubarak regime cen- 
tered on Abu Ghazala, Mubarak's close collaborator, who was 
named minister of defense before Sadat's death in 1981 and was 
promoted to field marshal and deputy prime minister in 1982. Un- 
der Abu Ghazala, the military's growing involvement in Egypt's 
industrial, military, and agricultural sectors offset the military's 


National Security 

diminishing role in politics (see Production of Civilian Goods, this 
ch.). With substantial economic resources and the means to earn 
revenues independently of the budget, the defense sector was able 
to maintain a high degree of financial autonomy. Despite the 
government's fiscal austerity, Abu Ghazala was able to purchase 
expensive modern weaponry during the 1980s and to undertake 
vast housing projects to improve the living conditions of both officers 
and enlisted personnel. Widely regarded as the natural successor 
to Mubarak as president, Abu Ghazala was careful not to appear 
to be a political rival to Mubarak or to undercut the president's 
authority. He nevertheless spoke out on nonmilitary matters, ap- 
parentiy with Mubarak's consent, and developed a network of con- 
tacts with civilian business leaders. 

In April 1989, Mubarak abruptly appointed General Yusuf Sabri 
Abu Talib as minister of defense and commander in chief and as- 
signed Abu Ghazala the vague position of assistant to the presi- 
dent. Most observers believed that Abu Ghazala had been dismissed 
for corrupt financial dealings as well as for a scandal over smug- 
gling arms from the United States; others believed that Mubarak 
considered him too influential. One effect of Mubarak's dramatic 
action, however, was to strengthen civilian primacy over the mili- 
tary. Abu Ghazala' s successor, Abu Talib, had earned a reputa- 
tion as an efficient manager in his previous post as governor of 
Cairo. When Abu Talib took up his new post, he indicated that 
he intended to introduce greater financial accountability into defense 
programs and to limit the military's involvement in economic ac- 
tivities that were not directly related to defense and that competed 
with the private sector. Abu Talib was also charged with bringing 
corruption in the armed forces under control. 

The Armed Forces 

According to Articles 180 to 183 of the Constitution of 1971, 
the armed forces "shall belong to the people" and are required 
"to defend the country, to safeguard its territory and security, and 
to protect the socialist gains of the people's struggle." The Constitu- 
tion allows only the government to have armed forces; it forbids 
organizations or groups from establishing a military or paramili- 
tary force. The Constitution also refers to the defense of the home- 
land as a "sacred duty" and mandates compulsory conscription. 

The Constitution designates the president of the republic as 
supreme commander of the armed forces and empowers the presi- 
dent to declare war or a state of emergency as long as the People's 
Assembly (Majlis ash Shaab; formerly the National Assembly) con- 
curs. The four presidents who have held the office since the 1952 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Revolution — Muhammad Naguib, Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak — 
have all been military officers and have played decisive roles in 
matters affecting security and the armed forces. The Constitution 
establishes the National Defense Council as the president's prin- 
cipal advisory body for all matters relating to the country's security. 
The Constitution provides no rules for membership in the coun- 
cil, but it does designate the president as the council's chairman. 
In practice, however, the National Defense Council was rarely men- 
tioned; the president and the minister of defense usually dealt 
informally with national security matters. On issues of broad sig- 
nificance, other members of the cabinet might also be present to 
offer their views. 

The post of commander in chief of the armed forces had cus- 
tomarily been combined with the offices of minister of defense and 
minister of military production. The Ministry of Defense dealt with 
budgetary, administrative, industrial, and policy matters affect- 
ing the military. It also handled affairs related to reserve officers 
and veterans. The senior deputy to the commander in chief, the 
chief of staff of the armed forces, was responsible for current oper- 
ations of the armed forces. The Military Operations Authority, 
headed by the army commander, served as a combined services 
coordinating and control center. The commanders of the navy, air 
force, the Air Defense Force, and the two field armies worked un- 
der the direction of the chief of staff. These lines of command, 
however, were not always strictly observed, especially under oper- 
ational conditions (see fig. 8). 

The commander in chief of the armed forces held the rank of 
a full general, except in the case of Abu Ghazala, who was promoted 
to field marshal in recognition of his importance in the national 
security establishment. In 1990 the chief of staff of the armed forces 
and the commander in chief of the Air Defense Force were lieu- 
tenant generals. The naval and air force commanders held the ranks 
of vice admiral and air marshal, the air force equivalent of lieutenant 
general, respectively. The chief of the Military Operations Authority 
and the commanders of the two field armies were major generals. 


The army has always been the largest and most important branch 
of the armed forces. The army had an estimated strength of 320,000 
in 1989. About 180,000 of these were conscripts. Before the June 
1967 War, the army divided its personnel into four regional com- 
mands. After the 1967 debacle, the army was reorganized into two 
field armies — the Second Army and the Third Army, both of which 
were stationed in the eastern part of the country. Most of the 


National Security 

remaining troops were stationed in the Nile Delta region, around 
the upper Nile, and along the Libyan border. These troops were 
organized into eight military districts. Commandos and paratroop 
units were stationed near Cairo under central control but could 
be transferred quickly to one of the field armies if needed. District 
commanders, who generally held the rank of major general, main- 
tained liaison with governors and other civil authorities on mat- 
ters of domestic security. 

The army's principal tactical formations in 1988 were believed 
to include four armored divisions (each with two armored brigades 
and one mechanized brigade); six mechanized infantry divisions 
(each with two mechanized brigades and one armored brigade); 
and two infantry divisions (each with two infantry brigades and 
one mechanized brigade). Independent brigades included four in- 
fantry brigades, three mechanized brigades, one armored brigade, 
two air mobile brigades, one paratroop brigade, and the Republi- 
can Guard armored brigade. These brigades were augmented by 
two heavy mortar brigades, fourteen artillery brigades, two surface- 
to-surface missile (SSM) regiments, and seven commando groups, 
each consisting of about 1,000 men. 

Although disposition of the forces was secret, foreign military 
observers estimated that five Egyptian divisions were in camps west 
of the Suez Canal while half a division was in Sinai. The Second 
Army was responsible for the area from the Mediterranean Sea 
to a point south of Ismailia; the Third Army was responsible from 
that point southward to the Red Sea. The government deployed 
the armies in this way partly because of a desire to protect the canal 
and the capital from a potential Israeli invasion and partly because 
the housing facilities and installations for the two armies had long 
been located in these areas. The commander of the Western Dis- 
trict controlled armored forces supplemented by commando, ar- 
tillery, and air defense units (possibly totaling the equivalent of 
a reinforced division) that were stationed at coastal towns in the 
west and in the Western Desert (also known as the Libyan Desert) 
facing Libya. 

Even though the Egyptian military became oriented toward the 
West after the October 1973 War, it still had large amounts of Soviet 
equipment in its arms inventory. As of 1989, an estimated five of 
the twelve divisions and portions of other units had made the tran- 
sition to American equipment and order of battle. The stock of 
main battle tanks consisted of 785 M60A3s from the United States, 
together with more than 1 ,600 Soviet-made T-54, T-55, and T-62 
models. Some of these older Soviet tanks were being refitted in 
the West with 105mm guns, diesel engines, fire-control systems, 


Egypt: A Country Study 

W _J O 

Z I ° 

± ^ CE 

2 0- 

uj ^ < o 


m 5, rr □ 

< < E 

2 a 


Ul S Q 

Q O m 

UJ 111 DC 
oc s < 

0- UJ uj 

f 1 

0- I- 

— o 


< UJ LL 
5 O LU 

o — oc 


< cc 


LL 2 





Z. I uj 



cl nl cc cc 


i 18 


o- Ll 








National Security 

< C3 



o o 

0. DC 

CO o 

z < 


z z w 2 ^ z 

1 O O m o. < 



_l CO 




< Q 








O 5 
Z O 
3 O 





< o in in oc in 

< o 
o <r 


1 < 

2 °< 

o Q- 


— < 




— •- o 


1 8 

o < 


<& c — 

» « * 

E c 

°S' 5 

w c >• 

3 © 

« S S ^ 

o o c 
a. o. u. d 





• S 







Egypt: A Country Study 

and external armor. Armored personnel carriers (APCs) consist- 
ed of 1,000 M-113A2s from the United States, more than 1,000 
BTR-50s and OT-62s from the Soviet Union, and about 200 
Fahds, which were manufactured in Egypt based on a design from 
the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). The army also 
had more than 700 infantry combat vehicles that were manufac- 
tured by the Soviet Union and Spain. Egypt also launched a pro- 
gram to increase the mobility of artillery and rockets by mounting 
them on the chassis of tanks and APCs. 

The army possessed a variety of antitank rockets and missiles, 
including older Soviet models, Egyptian rocket systems derived from 
the Soviet ones, and Milan missiles from France, Swingfire mis- 
siles produced in Egypt under British license, and TOW (tube- 
launched, optically sighted, wire-guided) missiles from the Unit- 
ed States. The army mounted the TOWs and Swingfires on local- 
ly built jeeps. A plan to add TOWs to Fahd APCs was still at the 
prototype stage (see table 13, Appendix). 

During the 1980s, the armed forces implemented a program to 
improve the quality and efficiency of the combat units by introduc- 
ing modern armaments while reducing the number of personnel. 
The army was expected to lose more personnel than the other 
branches of the military. The army, however, had little incentive 
to cut its enlisted strength because doing so would further reduce 
the need for officers, who were already in excess of available posi- 
tions. Moreover, service in the army helped relieve the nation's 
unemployment situation and provided some soldiers with vocational 
training. Nevertheless, plans called for a reduction in army strength 
by as much as 25 percent. 

During each of the wars with Israel, the army had demonstrat- 
ed weaknesses in command relationships and communications. Un- 
der the influence of Soviet military doctrine, higher commanders 
had been reluctant to extend operational flexibility to brigade and 
battalion commanders. Rigidity in planning was another shortcom- 
ing. Commanders reacted slowly in battlefield situations; the sys- 
tem did not encourage initiative among frontline officers. Prior to 
the October 1973 War, the army made many improvements in the 
way it prepared officers for combat. Moreover, the complex plan- 
ning that preceded the Egyptian crossing of the Suez Canal and 
the execution of the initial attack demonstrated a high level of mili- 
tary competence. Later, however, when Israel launched its counter- 
attack, the Egyptian high command reacted with hesitation and 
confusion, enabling Israel to gain the initiative in spite of deter- 
mined Egyptian resistance. 


National Security 

Decision making in the army continued to be highly centralized 
during the 1980s. Officers below brigade level rarely made tacti- 
cal decisions and required the approval of higher-ranking authori- 
ties before they modified any operations. Senior army officers were 
aware of this situation and began taking steps to encourage initia- 
tive at the lower levels of command. 

A shortage of well-trained enlisted personnel became a serious 
problem for the army as it adopted increasingly complex weapons 
systems. Observers estimated in 1986 that 75 percent of all conscripts 
were illiterate when they entered the military and therefore faced 
serious obstacles when trying to learn how to use high-techlology 
weaponry. Soldiers who had acquired even the most basic techni- 
cal skills were eager to leave the army as soon as possible in search 
of higher-paying positions in the civilian sector. By United States 
standards, the army underutilized its noncommissioned officers 
(NCOs), many of whom were soldiers who had served a long time 
but had not shown any special aptitude. Officers with ranks as high 
as major often conducted training that would be carried out by NCOs 
in a Western army. In a move to retain well- trained NCOs, the 
army in the 1980s started providing career enlisted men with higher 
pay, more amenities, and improved living conditions. 

The Frontier Corps, a lightly armed paramilitary unit of about 
12,000 men, mostly beduins, was responsible for border surveil- 
lance, general peacekeeping, drug interdiction, and prevention of 
smuggling. In the late 1980s, the army equipped this force with 
remote sensors, night- vision binoculars, communications vehicles, 
and high-speed motorboats. 

Air Force 

As of 1989, the Egyptian air force had more than 500 combat 
aircraft and 30,000 personnel, of which 10,000 were conscripts. 
Its front-rank fighters consisted of sixty-seven multimission F-16 
A/Cs and thirty- three F-4Es from the United States, as well as 
sixteen Mirage 2000s from France. A large inventory of older MiG 
aircraft (some of which were Chinese versions assembled in Egypt) 
backed up the more modern fighters. The air force had fitted many 
of the MiGs with advanced Western electronics, including radars, 
jamming equipment, and Sidewinder and Matra air-to-air mis- 
siles. The Air Defense Force exercised operational control of about 
135 MiG interceptors, although its aircraft and personnel remained 
part of the air force. Egypt also planned to exchange crude oil 
for fifty Pucara light ground-attack fighters from Argentina. The 
air force operated seventy-two combat helicopters and a number 
of electronic-monitoring, maritime-patrol, reconnaissance, and 


Egypt: A Country Study 

early-warning aircraft. Some of these aircraft were capable of de- 
tecting low-flying targets at great distances (see table 14, Appendix). 

When the Soviet Union became Egypt's principal arms supplier 
in the 1950s, it also played a preeminent role in advising and train- 
ing the Egyptian air force. Much of the Soviet influence on the 
air force's structure and organization still prevailed in the 1980s, 
although training and tactics were affected by the changeover to 
Western equipment and the advanced training provided by the 
United States and other Western countries. Flying units were or- 
ganized into air brigades that were headquartered at a single base. 
Brigades officially consisted of three squadrons that each had six- 
teen to twenty aircraft. Many brigades, however, had only two 
squadrons. With its headquarters at Heliopolis near Cairo, the air 
force had about seventeen principal air bases out of a total of forty 
major installations, as well as reserve and auxiliary bases. 

After the June 1967 War and again after the October 1973 War, 
Egypt had to rebuild totally its air force. Only a few hours after 
the June 1967 War began, Israel had virtually wiped out the Egyp- 
tian air force. The government later tried and imprisoned the com- 
mander of the air force and a few other officers and purged many 
other senior officers. The combat efficiency of the air force, which 
had dropped almost to nil as a consequence of the war and its after- 
math, was restored by renewed deliveries from the Soviet Union 
and intensified Soviet-led training of pilots and crews. 

When Egypt initiated the October 1973 War, the air force was 
much better prepared for its mission. Egypt's air reconnaissance 
along the Suez Canal and its air strikes against Israeli strong points 
provided essential support to the ground forces that were crossing 
the canal. The air force then shifted to Israeli targets in Sinai and 
engaged in frequent dogfights over Suez and Port Said. Despite 
the courage and competence of the pilots, Egypt's air force suffered 
the loss of more than 200 aircraft in eighteen days of combat. Egypt 
and Syria together lost an estimated twelve aircraft for every air- 
craft lost by Israel. 

When the war ended, Sadat repeatedly pressed the Soviets to 
replace Egypt's losses with more advanced aircraft that could rival 
the American aircraft being flown by the Israelis. Angered by Soviet 
delays, Sadat ordered Mirage 5 aircraft from France and, later on, 
F-4E fighters from the United States. Deliveries of the latter be- 
gan in mid- 1979. In addition, two batches of more advanced F-16s 
were delivered between 1986 and 1989. Delivery of a third batch, 
which would bring the total number of F-16s in operational units 
to 120, was to begin in 1991. As of 1990, Egypt was negotiating 
a fourth batch of forty-six aircraft. Egypt originally planned to 


National Security 

purchase forty Mirage 2000s from France, but as of late 1989 no 
decision had been reached on acquiring the remaining aircraft. With 
the cooperation of Chinese and Western manufacturers, Egypt de- 
veloped a major domestic industry that assembled aircraft and pro- 
duced parts (see Defense Industry, this ch.). 


Although the navy was the smallest branch of the military, it 
was large by Middle Eastern standards. After some years of neglect, 
in 1989 the navy was in the process of modernization. The navy's 
diverse and challenging missions included protection of more than 
2,000 kilometers of coastline on the Mediterranean and Red seas, 
defense of approaches to the Suez Canal, and support for army 
operations. The navy had been built mostly with Soviet equipment 
during the 1960s but in the early 1980s acquired a number of ves- 
sels from China and Western sources. In 1989 the navy had 18,000 
personnel, not including 2,000 members in the Coast Guard. Three- 
year conscripts accounted for about half of the personnel. Prin- 
cipal bases were at Alexandria (Al Iskandariyah), Port Said, and 
Marsa Matruh on the Mediterranean Sea, at Port Tawflq (Bur 
Tawfiq) near Suez, and at Al Ghardaqah and Bur Safajah on the 
Red Sea. Some fleet units were stationed in the Red Sea, but the 
bulk of the force remained in the Mediterranean. Navy headquar- 
ters and the main operational and training base were located at 
Ras at Tin near Alexandria. 

The Egyptian navy was only peripherally involved in the series 
of conflicts with Israel. During the 1956 War, Egyptian destroy- 
ers and torpedo boats engaged larger British vessels in a move aimed 
at undermining the amphibious operations of the British and French. 
The Egyptian blockade of ships in the Strait of Tiran that were head- 
ed toward Israel helped precipitate the June 1967 War, but Egypt's 
navy played only a minor role in the overall conflict. The navy's 
most significant action occurred in October 1967, a few months af- 
ter the cease-fire, when an Egyptian missile boat sank one of Is- 
rael's two destroyers in Egyptian territorial waters off Port Said. 

In the October 1973 War, Egypt blocked commercial traffic to 
Elat in the Gulf of Aqaba by laying mines; it also attempted to 
blockade Israeli ports on the Mediterranean. When Israel succeeded 
in enticing Egyptian missile craft into action, Israeli gunboats 
equipped with superior Gabriel missiles sank a number of Egyp- 
tian units. Both navies shelled and carried out rocket attacks against 
each other's shore installations, but neither side experienced any 
extensive damage. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Egypt maintained satisfactory operational standards for older 
ships at its own naval workshops and repair facilities; many ships 
were outfitted at these facilities with newer electronic equipment 
and weapons. During the 1980s, the navy focused on upgrading 
submarine and antisubmarine warfare, improving minesweeping 
capabilities, and introducing early-warning systems. Libya's mining 
of the Red Sea in 1984 focused attention on the need to protect 
shipping lanes leading to the Suez Canal and the need for more 
advanced mine countermeasure vessels. The navy periodically tested 
its effectiveness during joint operations with friendly foreign fleets. 
Egypt regularly carried out exercises with French and Italian naval 
units and with ships of the United States Sixth Fleet in a series 
known as "Sea Wind." Exercises were also scheduled to be held 
with Britain in 1990. 

The navy's main operational subdivisions were the destroyer, 
submarine, mine warfare, missile boat, and torpedo boat com- 
mands. The most up-to-date combat vessels of the navy were two 
Descubierta-class frigates built in Spain and commissioned in 1984. 
The frigates were equipped with Aspide missiles and Stingray torpe- 
does for antisubmarine operations and with Harpoon SSMs. The 
navy commissioned two Chinese frigates of the Jianghu class in 
the same period. The navy had ten Romeo-class submarines, of 
which eight were operational, four provided by the Soviet Union 
and four by China. Four of the submarines were undergoing moder- 
nization in an Egyptian shipyard under contract with an Ameri- 
can firm. Modernization included refitting the vessels so they could 
fire Harpoon SSMs and Mk 37 torpedoes. In 1989 Egypt purchased 
two Oberon-class submarines from Britain. These submarines 
would require refitting and modernization before entering Egyp- 
tian service. Most of the navy's considerable fleet of fast-attack craft 
armed with missiles or torpedoes came from the Soviet Union 
or China. The most modern of these craft, however, were six 
Ramadan-class missile boats built in Britain in the early 1980s and 
mounted with Otomat SSMs (see table 15, Appendix). 

The Coast Guard was responsible for the onshore protection of 
public installations near the coast and the patrol of coastal waters 
to prevent smuggling. Its inventory consisted of about thirty large 
patrol craft (each between twenty and thirty meters in length) and 
twenty smaller Bertram-class coastal patrol craft built in the Unit- 
ed States. 

The navy lacked its own air arm and depended on the air force 
for maritime reconnaissance and protection against submarines. 
The air force's equipment that supported the navy included twelve 
Gazelle and five Sea King helicopters mounted with antiship and 


National Security 

antisubmarine missiles. In mid- 1988 the air force also took deliv- 
ery of the first of six Grumman E-2c Hawkeye aircraft with search 
and side-looking radar for maritime surveillance purposes. 

Air Defense Force 

After most of the country's aircraft was destroyed on the ground 
in 1967, the military placed responsibility for air defense under 
one commander. Responsibility had previously been divided among 
several commands. Egypt patterned its new Air Defense Force 
(ADF) after the Soviet Air Defense Command, which integrated 
all its air defense capabilities — antiaircraft guns, rocket and mis- 
sile units, interceptor planes, and radar and warning installations. 

In 1989 the ADF had an estimated 80,000 ground and air per- 
sonnel, including 50,000 conscripts. Its main constituents were 100 
antiaircraft-gun battalions, 65 battalions of SA-2 SAMs, 60 battalions 
of SA-3 SAMs, 12 batteries of improved Hawk SAMs (I-Hawk), 
and 1 battery of Crotale missiles. Each battalion had between 200 
and 500 men, and from four to eight battalions composed a brigade. 
Gun and missile sites were located along the Suez Canal, around 
Cairo, and near some other cities to protect military installations 
and strategic civilian targets. The ADF deployed some of its more 
mobile weapons in the Western Desert as a defense against possi- 
ble Libyan incursions. 

Progress was being made on a national air-defense network that 
would integrate all existing radars, missile batteries, air bases, and 
command centers into an automated command and control sys- 
tem. The ADF planned to link the system to the Hawkeye early 
warning aircraft. 

A large share of the ADF's antiaircraft artillery, SAMs, and ra- 
dar equipment was imported from the Soviet Union. As of 1989, 
the most modern weapons in the air defense system were the 108 
medium-altitude I-Hawk SAMs acquired from the United States 
beginning in 1982. These weapons were supplemented by 400 older 
Soviet-made SA-2 SAMs with a slant range of forty to fifty kilo- 
meters and about 240 SA-3s, which provided shorter- range defense 
against low-flying targets. A British firm helped the ADF modern- 
ize the SA-2s. In addition, Egypt was producing its own SAM, 
the Tayir as Sabah (Morning Flight), based on the design of the 
SA-2. The ADF had mounted sixty Soviet SA-6 SAMs on tracked 
vehicles as tactical launchers. Sixteen tracked vehicles provided 
mobile launching platforms for its fifty French-manufactured Cro- 
tale SAM launchers. Egypt was also introducing its own composite 
gun-missile-radar system known as Amun (skyguard), integrating 


Egypt: A Country Study 

radar- guided twin 23mm guns with Sparrow and Egyptian Ayn 
as Saqr SAMs (see table 16, Appendix). 

Training and Education 

Army recruits followed a basic training program that included, 
when necessary, some remedial literacy training. After specialized 
training, recruits participated in the annual cycle of training that 
commenced at the small unit level and culminated in army-wide 
exercises. Individuals who volunteered to continue in service as 
NCOs attended a command school followed by specialized train- 
ing and eventually became eligible for enrollment in an advanced 
career school for senior NCOs. Recruits in the navy and air force 
followed a similar program of basic training followed by special- 
ized training. The navy, however, required shipboard service be- 
fore specialization. 

Five academies trained cadets (midshipmen) for commissioning 
as regular officers. The academies included the Military Academy, 
the Naval Academy, the Air Force Academy, the Military Tech- 
nical Academy, and the Air Defense Academy. The oldest of these, 
the Military Academy, was located in Cairo, having been founded 
after Egyptian independence in 1922, when British influence in 
the military was still strong. In 1936 the Military Academy extended 
eligibility for admission to young men of lower-middle-class and 
peasant families. Graduates of the academy after the change in ad- 
missions policy went into effect included Nasser, Sadat, and seven 
others of the group known as the Free Officers who later led the 
1952 military coup that toppled Egypt's monarchy. 

Candidates applying for admission to the Military Academy were 
required to have a general secondary school certificate showing 
above- average grades. The academy based admissions decisions 
on the results of a competitive academic examination, a stringent 
physical examination, and a physical fitness test. Sons of military 
and police personnel and sons and brothers of men killed in action 
automatically received extra points in the scoring process. The Mili- 
tary Academy's curriculum included comprehensive undergradu- 
ate training and specific training in combat arms. Graduates of 
the three-year program were commissioned as second lieutenants. 
Newly commissioned army officers received branch training at 
schools operated by the infantry, artillery, armor, and several other 

The Naval Academy, located at the Ras at Tin naval base, offered 
an academic course comparable to the one offered by the Military 
Academy. The program at the Naval Academy, however, also in- 
cluded shipboard training during cruises that lasted from one to 


Egyptian army members 
participating in joint 
United States-Egyptian 
Exercise Bright Star, 1982 
Courtesy United States 
Department of Defense 

Egypt: A Country Study 

three months. On graduation, midshipmen were commissioned as 
ensigns. Engineers, communications specialists, and other techni- 
cians also graduated from the Naval Academy after following 
separate curricula. The Air Force Academy, about sixty kilometers 
northeast of Cairo at Bilbays, had a curriculum of theoretical, tech- 
nical, and scientific subjects plus up to 200 hours of flying instruc- 
tion. In 1988 the Air Force Academy reduced the period of study 
from four to three years. The academy also eased the requirement 
of a superior secondary school academic record to emphasize stu- 
dent's aptitude for flying through a series of tests. On successful 
completion of flight training and the academic program, gradu- 
ates were commissioned as pilots or navigators; those who did not 
qualify were given administrative assignments in the air force or, 
in some cases, were transferred to another service. 

The Military Technical Academy (also known as the Armed 
Forces Technical College), was located at Heliopolis. It educated 
technical officers for all armed forces and therefore reduced the need 
for foreign technical advisers. The Military Technical Academy's 
admissions office had more stringent entrance requirements than 
the Military Academy; applicants had to have a superior academic 
record in secondary- school science courses. Applicants to the Mili- 
tary Technical Academy also faced more difficult qualifying ex- 
aminations in science and mathematics. Because of their intensive 
curriculum, graduates were commissioned as first lieutenants. 
Selected civilians who made a commitment to government service 
could also enroll in the Military Technical Academy. Under Abu 
Ghazala, the Military Technical Academy was upgraded by the 
grant of scarce resources for research in spite of retrenchment at 
civilian research facilities. The Academy of Military Medicine 
trained health workers and medical professionals. In 1986 the Peo- 
ple's Assembly passed legislation calling for the development of 
a new Military Academy for Administrative Sciences. The Air De- 
fense Academy, which opened in Alexandria in 1974, required five 
years of study leading to a bachelor's degree in engineering. Ad- 
ditional training followed on individual air defense systems. 

The Command and General Staff College was founded in Cairo 
in 1939 as the Army Staff College, a name still frequently used. 
The school provided training in staff duties and command respon- 
sibilities for selected officers, usually majors and junior lieutenant 
colonels. The college provided intensive study of tactics, logistics, 
operations planning, and administration. The duration of the aca- 
demic program was about eighteen months. Graduates received 
masters' degrees in military science and were considered qualified 
for assignment to staff positions at the division level and higher 


National Security 

or to command a battalion or brigade. Completion of the staff col- 
lege or an appropriate educational equivalent was a prerequisite 
for acceptance to senior military colleges. 

Named in honor of Egypt's president at the time, the Nasser 
High Military Academy was founded in 1965. It was dedicated 
to the advanced education of senior officers of the armed forces 
and selected civilian government officials. It encompassed both the 
Higher War College and the National Defense College and was 
the summit of the officer education system. Studies at the Higher 
War College lasted for one year and emphasized familiarity with 
Egypt's military, economic, and international situation. This in- 
stitution, which prepared students to participate in the formula- 
tion of Egypt's foreign and defense policies, awarded its graduates 
doctoral degrees in military sciences and national strategy. Foreign- 
ers were not permitted to enroll, but special courses were held for 
officers of friendly countries, such as Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, and 
Tunisia. In addition, beginning in 1980 the college held a number 
of symposia on African strategic issues and invited participants from 
most of the African countries. 

The National Defense College admitted qualified applicants who 
were either senior officers or ranking civilians from state and public- 
sector institutions. The college gave preference to persons with a 
master's degree. The academic program, which lasted eleven 
months, emphasized national strategic planning and mobilization 
problems to develop a civilian's capabilities to hold a leadership 
position in state agencies. 

Egypt started sending selected officers abroad for advanced train- 
ing as early as the 1930s. Between the mid- 1940s and mid-1950s, 
hundreds of Egyptian officers attended schools in Britain, France, 
and the United States. When the Soviet Union became the chief 
supplier of Egypt's arms and equipment, it became the focal point 
of foreign military training. After Egypt severed relations with Brit- 
ain and the United States in 1967, training abroad was conducted 
almost exclusively in the Soviet Union, although a few officers con- 
tinued to attend French schools. Although some officers believed 
that the standard of instruction in Soviet institutions was seriously 
deficient, nearly all Egyptian officers below the rank of major 
general at the time of the October 1973 War had attended staff 
schools or received specialized training in the Soviet Union. Since 
the 1970s, Egypt sent almost all of its advanced military students 
to institutions in Western countries. 

Conscription and Reserves 

The Constitution mandates conscription but provides a variety 


Egypt: A Country Study 

of options for national service. Conscripts may be required to serve 
in the armed forces, the police, the prison- guard service, or a mili- 
tary economic service unit. In 1988 almost 12.5 million men were 
between the ages of fifteen and forty-nine. More than 8 million 
of these men were considered fit for military service. Although 
519,000 men reached the draft age of twenty each year, only about 
80,000 of these men were conscripted to serve in the armed forces. 
Women were not subject to conscription. 

Volunteers earned considerably higher salaries and twice as much 
leave time as conscripts. Those conscripts who chose to reenlist were 
often among the less qualified. The result of this situation was a 
scarcity of NCOs with the proper level of proficiency. The navy 
and the air force had a smaller conscript-to- volunteer ratio, but 
these branches of the military faced similar problems. In all ser- 
vices senior NCOs could become candidates for commissions after 
eight years of duty. These NCOs usually were those with func- 
tional specialties who could qualify as warrant officers. 

Conscripts served three years of active duty after which they re- 
mained in reserve for an additional period. Conscripts with degrees 
from institutions of higher education had to serve only eighteen 
months. The government required all males to register for the draft 
when they reached age sixteen. The government delineated several 
administrative zones for conscription purposes. Each zone had a 
council of military officers, civil officials, and medical officers who 
selected draftees. Local mayors and village leaders also participated 
in the selection process. After the council granted exemptions and 
deferments, it chose conscripts by lot from the roster of remaining 
names. Individuals eligible to be inducted were on call for three 
years. After that period, they could no longer be drafted. 

Although it was no longer possible for a prospective conscript to 
pay a fee in lieu of service, he could still apply for an exemption. 
Men employed in permanent government positions, an only remain- 
ing son whose brothers had died in service, men employed in essential 
industries, and family breadwinners were all eligible for exemptions. 

The military authorities did not give strong emphasis to main- 
taining reserve forces. Foreign military observers believed that the 
reserves would be of minimal value in the event of an emergency. 
An estimated 335,000 men were in the reserves in the early 1980s 
(300,000 army and ADF, 15,000 navy, and 20,000 air force). The 
total was expected to decline to about 200,000 by the early 1990s. 

Conditions of Service 

Between 1981 and 1989, commander in chief Abu Ghazala estab- 
lished his popularity with the armed forces by substantially improving 


National Security 

the living conditions of military careerists. The cabinet approved 
periodic pay increases, but salaries were not as high as in the pri- 
vate sector. Still, the combination of salaries and benefits provid- 
ed officers with a comfortable living. As of 1989, it was less common 
for officers to hold second jobs. Many retired officers, however, 
were employed in the state-owned defense production sector. 
Officers' special privileges included the opportunity to purchase 
cars at reduced prices, access to superior health care and hospi- 
tals, visits to specially designated resort areas, and club member- 
ships. Officers shopped at clean, well-stocked commissaries that 
carried duty-free or subsidized foods, which were often unavail- 
able on the local market. Children of career personnel received 
preferential treatment when they applied for admission to institu- 
tions of higher learning. Under Abu Ghazala, ordinary soldiers 
received a narrower range of benefits, but their housing, rations, 
and uniforms improved. Soldiers seemed well-fed and neady turned 
out. NCOs earned salaries that were high enough for them to afford 
adequate accommodations for their families. Draftees' living con- 
ditions remained far less favorable. Their monthly earnings amount- 
ed to less than US$10 in the late 1980s. 

To attract people to the uniformed services, the military began 
offering recruits comfortable apartments in new "military cities." 
Most of these cities were located in the desert just outside Cairo 
and other major cities and near the Suez area, where there was 
a high concentration of military installations. As of 1986, the mili- 
tary had built thirteen of these cities and was constructing another 
ten. The largest of these was Nasser City near Heliopolis, where 
an estimated 250,000 people lived in 1986. Other military cities 
were designed to accommodate as many as 150,000 residents, in- 
cluding troops in new barracks. Each city generally included a large 
number of apartment blocks, as well as primary schools, high 
schools, nurseries, mosques, supermarkets, social clubs, banks, a 
water purification system, and solar heating. 

The military raised some of the capital needed to erect the mili- 
tary cities from the sale of valuable land it owned in the center of 
Cairo. With subsidized prices and favorable loan terms, career mili- 
tary personnel could typically buy an apartment for £E12,000 as 
of 1986 (for value of the Egyptian pound, see Glossary), with down 
payments ranging from £E1,000 to £E3,000, amortized over thirty 
years. Some officers profited by subletting their apartments to 
civilians. In addition, land was made available within the military 
cities for construction of civilian apartment blocks. As of 1986, con- 
struction in military cities accounted for 5 percent of all Egyptian 
residential construction. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Defense Spending 

The burden of defense expenditures on the economy was difficult 
to assess because the military did not make this information pub- 
lic and did not provide details to the People's Assembly as part 
of the annual budget. The last time defense outlays were made pub- 
lic was in 1983, when the minister of finance stated that the mili- 
tary would receive £E2.1 billion (about US$3 billion at the 1983 
rate of exchange) in fiscal year (FY — see Glossary) 1983. The 
amount was 22 percent higher than the amount for the preceding 
year and equaled 1 3 percent of total central government expendi- 
tures. In early 1989, Abu Ghazala indicated that military expen- 
ditures amounted to £E2.4 billion or 10 percent of total government 

According to estimates published in The Military Balance, 
1989-1990 by the London-based International Institute for Stra- 
tegic Studies, Egypt's actual military expenditures were much 
higher than official figures. According to the institute, defense out- 
lays amounted to about £E4 billion in FY 1988 and £E4.7 billion 
in FY 1989. The institute's estimates, however, did not include 
funds received directly from other sources, such as the United 
States, which contributed US$1.3 billion each year. The military 
also received an undisclosed amount from Saudi Arabia and earned 
foreign exchange from exports of domestically manufactured mili- 
tary equipment. The military reportedly produced as much as 60 
percent of its consumable requirements (food, uniforms, and other 
goods) at its own farms and factories, but it was not clear whether 
the value of this production was fully reported in the budget. 

According to estimates compiled by the United States Arms Con- 
trol and Disarmament Agency (AC DA), Egypt's military expen- 
ditures fell to about US$4 billion annually between 1979 and 1981 
because of Sadat's decision to cut the military budget by half in 
the wake of the peace accord with Israel. In 1982, the year after 
Abu Ghazala took office, defense expenditures rose sharply to 
US$7.4 billion, according to the ACDA. Defense expenditures ta- 
pered off during the subsequent five years to US$6.5 billion as the 
nation's mounting financial difficulties necessitated retrenchment 
in all budget categories. The ACDA estimates, calculated in con- 
stant 1987 dollars, included arms imports and foreign military aid. 

The ACDA data also indicated that military expenditures as a 
share of gross national product (GNP — see Glossary) had fallen 
from 22.8 percent in 1977 to 9.2 percent in 1987. Military expen- 
ditures as a share of all central government expenditures had fallen 
from more than 40 percent in 1977 to 22.3 percent in 1987. Annual 


United States Air Force A-10 
Thunderbolt shares an Egyptian 
airfield with a Soviet-built 
Egyptian Armed Forces 
"Hip-C" helicopter. 
Exercise Bright Star 
Courtesy United States 
Department of Defense 

United States Army paratrooper 
works with his Egyptian Army 
counterpart prior to a 
simulated combat air assault. 

Exercise Bright Star 
Courtesy United States 
Department of Defense 


Egypt: A Country Study 

per capita military expenditures fell from US$229 in 1977 to 
US$126 in 1987 (expressed in constant 1987 dollars). Repayments 
on military credits extended by the United States, France, West 
Germany, Spain, Britain, and other countries amounted to about 
US$1 billion a year — Egypt's total foreign debt- servicing obliga- 
tions amounted to US$4 billion a year. 

Compared with the Middle East as a whole, Egypt's defense 
expenditures were relatively modest. In 1987 average military ex- 
penditures in the region amounted to 1 1 percent of GNP and 32 
percent of total central government expenditures. Per capita mili- 
tary expenditures in the region totaled US$396 (Syria, Iraq, and 
Iran were on a wartime footing when these figures were compiled). 

Military Justice 

The Military Justice Law of 1966 superseded a code of military 
justice that the British enacted in 1893. Three major concepts un- 
derlay the 1966 law: military law must be consonant with the general 
law of the land; crimes committed by military personnel (such as 
theft and embezzlement) were especially serious because they could 
endanger national security; and the armed forces should be role 
models for the rest of the country and should set ethical standards 
by promptly punishing personnel who violate laws. 

The 1966 law spelled out different legal procedures for adminis- 
trative violations, misdemeanors, and felonies; this system was simi- 
lar to the one used throughout the country for civilians. The military 
court system was similar to most Western military court systems 
but had courts whose size and authority varied according to the 
level of command. Military personnel had the right of trial before 
military courts even for common crimes against civilians. This ar- 
rangement, however, was under debate in the late 1980s because 
many civilians doubted military judges' qualifications and the ef- 
ficacy of the military courts. Military courts also had jurisdiction 
in cases involving offenses against military personnel and property. 
Since 1958 the country's state of emergency has entitled the presi- 
dent to refer civilian cases to military courts when the offenses in- 
volved issues of national security. 

The accused had the right to defense by an officer or by a civilian 
attorney. Verdicts, announced in open session, were not final un- 
til a higher authority approved them. The ultimate authority was 
the president, who could delegate his authority to the minister of 
defense or another official. The accused also had the right of ap- 
peal. The 1966 law outlawed cruel punishment, such as flogging, 
and established maximum sentences for various categories of crimes. 


National Security 

The 1966 law authorized the death penalty for treason, mur- 
der, and the destruction or sabotage of weapons or equipment of 
the armed forces. A 1970 amendment to the law defined twelve 
treasonable offenses that could be punished by execution. These 
offenses included misconduct before the enemy, surrendering or 
abandoning installations or troops to the enemy, and giving aid 
and comfort to the enemy. In addition, anyone abetting any of 
the twelve treasonable crimes through error or negligence or con- 
tributing to dereliction of duty could be sentenced to life imprison- 
ment at hard labor. Confiscation of government property for private 
use was also punishable by life imprisonment. 

Uniforms and Insignia 

Egyptian military uniforms were similar to British uniforms. Each 
branch of the military had dress, service or garrison, and field uni- 
forms. Dress uniforms were worn mostly on formal occasions. The 
service uniform was worn for daily duty. The service uniform for 
the ground forces was khaki cotton; personnel in the air force wore 
blue, and the navy wore navy blue in winter and white in sum- 
mer. Egyptian officers purchased their uniforms, but enlisted per- 
sonnel received a standard uniform issue, which consisted of service 
and field uniforms, fatigues, and in some cases, dress uniforms. 

Rank insignia were similar for the army, navy, and air force. 
The grade structure had seventeen ranks ranging from private to 
general. Each rank had a counterpart in all services. Commissioned 
officers in the army and navy wore gold insignia on shoulder boards; 
officers in the air force wore silver ones. Army enlisted personnel 
wore green stripes; air force enlisted personnel wore blue stripes 
on the upper sleeve (see fig. 9). 

Armed Forces Production 
Production of Civilian Goods 

Beginning in 1978 the armed forces launched a number of en- 
terprises that produced goods for military and civilian use. The 
National Service Project Organization (NSPO) controlled these en- 
terprises. The government set up the NSPO to help reorient the 
military toward national economic development efforts as the mili- 
tary 's role in defense diminished after the 1979 peace treaty with 
Israel. Moreover, government officials believed that national secu- 
rity would be bolstered if the military achieved a degree of self- 
sufficiency in food and other essential supplies. 

Agriculture, the most important sector of military production, 
accounted for £E488 million in production in FY 1985, the last 


Egypt: A Country Study 

National Security 

year for which data were available. The output of nonmilitary 
manufactured goods amounted to £E347 million in FY 1985, con- 
struction £E174 million, and other goods and services £E144 mil- 
lion. Military-operated facilities (including dairy and poultry farms, 
fisheries, cattle feedlots, vegetable and fruit farms, bakeries, and 
food-processing plants) accounted for 18 percent of the nation's 
total food production in FY 1985. The military consumed much 
of the food it produced, selling the surplus in commissaries and 
through civilian commercial channels. 

Military-operated manufacturing enterprises included factories 
that produced clothing, doors, window frames, stationery, phar- 
maceutical packaging, and microscopes. Abu Ghazala planned to 
develop a military-operated automobile assembly plant with as- 
sistance from General Motors Corporation, but the government 
shelved the idea because of widespread criticism on both economic 
and political grounds. 

The military was also involved in a number of infrastructure 
projects. It installed more than 40 percent of the new telephone 
links covered in the First Five-Year Plan (FY 1982-86). It con- 
structed power lines, sewers, bridges, and overpasses in Cairo and 
elsewhere. It also participated in land reclamation projects. 

Many career military officers disapproved of the military's role 
in national economic development projects; they believed that the 
armed forces should concentrate on the nation's security. Others, 
however, believed the projects improved the military's image and 
made the armed forces seem more efficient than the public sector. 
Senior officers argued that these projects had no effect on combat 
capabilities because the soldiers employed on them were not phys- 
ically qualified for normal military functions. The precise number 
of troops detailed to economic development was not disclosed, 
although observers have estimated that tens of thousands of troops 
were so engaged. Food production employed 5,000 service person- 
nel, including about 500 officers, in 1986. In the same year, Abu 
Ghazala announced that he would assign 30,000 conscripts to newly 
created development regiments after they received special train- 
ing following basic training. 

Opposition politicians and some business people complained that 
the military competed with the private sector in the country's de- 
velopment efforts. Critics argued that the private sector would be 
at a disadvantage as long as the armed forces were exempt from 
taxes, import licenses, and business permits and were not held ac- 
countable for profits or losses. Some business people, however, liked 
the military's growing role in the economy because many of them 


Egypt: A Country Study 

were awarded lucrative contracts from the military for a variety 
of goods and services. 

Defense Industry 

Egypt was the most important manufacturer of weapons and mili- 
tary components among the Arab countries. State-owned enter- 
prises, under control of the Armament Authority headed by a major 
general, were the main domestic producers of Egypt's defense sys- 
tems. The Armament Authority was responsible for selecting, de- 
veloping, and procuring military systems. Acting on behalf of the 
military's branches, the authority assigned production to domes- 
tic factories or contracted with external suppliers. 

As early as 1949, Egypt unveiled plans to develop its own air- 
craft and armaments industry with the industrial base that emerged 
during World War II when British and American forces placed 
orders for equipment. Egypt entered into a number of joint ven- 
ture projects to produce European-designed aircraft. The most suc- 
cessful of these led to the Jumhuriya basic flight trainer, of which 
about 200 were eventually made. In 1962 Egypt undertook a major 
program with the help of West German technicians to design and 
build a supersonic jet fighter, but the government terminated the 
project because of financial strains caused by the June 1967 War. 
In a separate program assisted by West German scientists and tech- 
nicians, the air force built prototypes of three SSM designs. These 
designs, however, were never put into operational use. 

During the 1970s and 1980s, Egypt expanded and diversified 
its production of arms to achieve partial self-sufficiency and to de- 
velop an export market in the Middle East and Africa. In addition 
to manufacturing small arms and ammunition, Egypt had begun 
producing or assembling more advanced weapons systems through 
licensing and joint venture agreements with companies based in 
the United States and Western Europe. Egyptian technicians and 
scientists developed several indigenous weapons systems. 

The National Organization for Military Production within the 
Ministry of Military Production supervised a number of manufac- 
turing plants, which were usually named after their location. These 
plants included the Abu Zaabal Company for Engineering Indus- 
tries, which produced artillery pieces and barrels; the Abu Zaabal 
Tank Repair Factory, which overhauled and repaired tanks and 
would eventually become the producer of Egypt's main battle tank; 
the Al Maadi Company for Engineering Industries, which produced 
light weapons, including the Egyptian version of the Soviet AK-47 
assault rifle; the Hulwan Company for Machine Tools, which 
produced mortars and rocket launchers; the Hulwan Company for 


National Security 

Engineering Industries, which produced metal parts for ammuni- 
tion, shells, bombs, and rockets; the Heliopolis Company for Chem- 
ical Industries, which produced artillery ordnance, bombs, and 
missile warheads; and the Banha Company for Electronic Indus- 
tries, which produced communications devices. 

In 1975 Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab 
Emirates founded the Arab Organization for Industrialization (AOI) 
and capitalized the new organization with more than US$1 bil- 
lion. These countries set up the AOI to establish an Arab defense 
industry by combining Egypt's managerial ability and industrial 
labor force with the Arab countries' oil money and foreign tech- 
nology. The bulk of the arms manufacturing was intended to take 
place in Egypt. But the AOI foundered before it could become a 
major arms producer because the Arab states broke relations with 
Egypt over Sadat's peace initiatives with Israel. Egypt kept the AOI 
functioning in spite of a 1979 proclamation by Saudi Arabia dis- 
solving the body. Some of the AOI's members have renewed mili- 
tary contacts, but as of 1989, the AOI had not been restored to 
its original status. 

The AOI had operated as an independent enterprise since 1979 
and was exempt from Egyptian taxes and business restrictions. The 
AOI consisted of nine companies, five wholly owned by Egypt and 
four joint ventures. The Egyptian plants manufactured missiles, 
rockets, aircraft engine parts, armored personnel carriers, electron- 
ics, radar, communications gear, and assembled aircraft. A joint 
venture with French firms assembled Gazelle combat helicopters 
and helicopter engines. A joint venture with the British manufac- 
tured the Swingfire antitank guided missile, while another venture 
with the Chrysler Corporation produced jeeps. 

As of 1990, Egypt did not manufacture its own aircraft, but it 
assembled Tucano primary trainers from Brazil, Chenyang fight- 
ers from China, and Alpha Jet trainers designed in France and 
West Germany. Egyptian technicians had also reverse engineered 
and modified two Soviet SAMs — the Ayn as Saqr (a version of the 
SA-7) and the Tayir as Sabah (a version of the SA-2). Egyptian 
shipyards had produced eight fast attack naval craft fitted with Brit- 
ish armaments and electronics. 

The only armored vehicle in production was the Fahd four- 
wheeled APC, although the United States and Egypt planned to 
coproduce 540 Abrams M1A1 main battle tanks over a ten-year 
period beginning in 1991. The project would be funded largely 
through United States military aid; the United States would also 
supply the engines and fire control systems. According to some 
reports, Egypt was reconsidering the project because of its high 


Egypt: A Country Study 

cost. But as of late 1989, Egypt appeared to be going forward with 
the plan. 

In September 1989, Egypt had reportedly dropped out of the 
Condor II project, cosponsored with Argentina and Iraq, to develop 
an intermediate-range (800-kilometer) SSM. Earlier that year, offi- 
cials in the United States had arrested several persons, including 
two military officers attached to the Embassy of Egypt in Washing- 
ton, in connection with the illegal export of missile technology and 
materials needed to produce rocket fuel and nose cones. 

In March 1989, United States and Swiss officials claimed that 
Egypt had imported from Switzerland the main elements of a plant 
capable of manufacturing poison gas. Mubarak denied that Egypt 
had either the facilities or the plans for producing chemical weapons. 

The main purchaser of Egyptian defense products had been Iraq. 
In the early 1980s, Iraq was desperate to replace Soviet military 
equipment lost during the early stages of the war with Iran. Iraq 
blunted Iranian attacks with the Saqr 18, the Egyptian version of 
the Soviet BM-21 122mm multiple rocket launcher. 

Egypt sold a smaller volume of weapons to Kuwait and other 
Persian Gulf states. In 1988 Kuwait was reported to have ordered 
about 100 Fahd armored personnel carriers; Oman and Sudan or- 
dered smaller quantities of these carriers. Because Egypt considered 
the value of its military exports confidential, it omitted this infor- 
mation from its published trade statistics. According to AGDA, 
Egypt exported US$340 million worth of military equipment in 
1982, declining to an average of US$70 million annually in the 
years from 1985 to 1987. The ACDA data was considered conser- 
vative. Other estimates have placed Egyptian defense exports as 
high as US$1 billion in 1982 and US$500 million annually in 1983 
and 1984, when deliveries to Iraq were at their peak. 

International observers believed that Egypt has not engaged in 
efforts to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Egypt had a small 
nuclear research reactor that was built with Soviet assistance, but 
the Soviets controlled the disposal of the facility's spent fuel. In 
any event, the facility was not capable of producing a significant 
amount of weapons- grade material. Egypt signed the Treaty on 
the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in 1968 but de- 
layed ratifying it, presumably because the government had evi- 
dence that Israel had embarked on a nuclear weapons program. 
In 1975 the United States agreed in principle on a program to supply 
Egypt with power reactors. The plan was subject to a trilateral safe- 
guards agreement signed by the United States, the International 
Atomic Energy Agency, and Egypt. Although financing problems 


National Security 

stalled construction of power reactors from the United States, Egypt 
ratified the NPT in 1981, in order to be able to conclude agree- 
ments with other countries for the construction of atomic energy 
production facilities. 

Foreign Military Assistance 

Between 1955 and 1975, the Egyptian armed forces depended 
heavily on the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union provided Egypt 
with grants and loans to pay for equipment, training, and the ser- 
vices of large numbers of military advisers. The Soviets initially 
supplied outmoded equipment from surplus stocks to help Egypt 
replenish its forces after the 1956 War, but in the early 1960s, the 
Soviet Union began furnishing up-to-date MiG-21 fighter aircraft, 
SA-2 SAMs, and T-54 tanks. The Soviet Union and the German 
Democratic Republic (East Germany) supplied large numbers of 
trainers and technicians, and Egypt sent many of its officers to 
Soviet military institutions to learn new organizational and stra- 
tegic doctrines. 

Egypt's defeat in the June 1967 War deepened the Soviet Union's 
involvement in Egypt's military (see War of Attrition and the Oc- 
tober 1973 War, this ch.). By the early 1970s, the number of Soviet 
personnel in Egypt had risen to nearly 20,000. They participated 
in operational decisions and served at the battalion and sometimes 
even company levels. 

Soviet advisers' patronizing attitudes, Moscow's slow response to 
requests for more sophisticated equipment, and Cairo's desire for 
more freedom in preparing for a new conflict were considered by 
observers as some of the reasons for Sadat's decision to expel most 
Soviet military personnel in July 1972. The Soviet Union continued 
to provide equipment, spare parts, and replacements for equip- 
ment lost during the October 1973 War, but Sadat was becoming 
increasingly disenchanted with Egypt's reliance on Soviet weaponry. 
In March 1976, Sadat asked the People's Assembly to abrogate 
the 1971 Soviet-Egyptian Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. 

After Egypt and Israel signed their peace treaty in 1979, the Unit- 
ed States strove to increase deliveries of armaments to Egypt and to 
provide the country with American military advisers and training. 
By 1989 this aid averaged US$1.3 billion a year and had totaled 
more than US$12 billion. Egypt was the second largest recipient 
of United States military aid after Israel, which received US$1.8 
billion annually. The United States supplied a number of major 
weapons systems, including F-4 and F-16 fighter aircraft, C-130 
transports, E-2C Hawkeye electronic surveillance aircraft, M60A3 
tanks, M-113A2 APCs, I-Hawk antiaircraft missile batteries, and 


Egypt: A Country Study 

improved TOW antitank missiles. The United States military as- 
sistance program for FY 1990 included initial funding for M1A1 
tank coproduction, attack helicopters, and equipment to enhance 
command, control, and communications systems. Under the con- 
current military education and training program of US$1.7 mil- 
lion for FY 1990, 174 Egyptian military personnel would receive 

The United States stationed 1,200 military personnel in Egypt 
as of mid- 1989. The presence of a large number of United States 
advisers in Egypt was a source of some political friction. The United 
States planned gradually to reduce the number in conjunction with 
the long-term Egyptian goal of self-sufficiency. 

Starting in 1981 , the United States and Egypt had held joint mili- 
tary exercises every other year under the name of Operation Bright 
Star. The two countries conducted the largest of these maneuvers 
near the Suez Canal in 1987 with 9,000 ground, air, and sea per- 
sonnel from each country. In alternate years, the two countries also 
held combined air and sea exercises. 

In 1981 Egypt agreed to allow the United States Rapid Deploy- 
ment Force (currently called the United States Central Command) 
to use Egypt's base at Ras Banas on the Red Sea in the event that 
a friendly Arab nation needed help in repelling an armed attack. 
Preparations were made to upgrade the base by installing fuel- 
storage tanks, lengthening runways, and building barracks and 
docks. In 1984, however, the project was shelved because of dis- 
agreements over who would manage construction and because the 
United States Congress insisted that Egypt provide a formal guaran- 
tee of access to the base. Mounting distrust among the Egyptian 
public over close strategic ties with the United States was an under- 
lying factor in abandoning the project. Egypt nonetheless indicat- 
ed that the United States would still have access to the base if help 
were needed by a friendly Arab government. 

Egypt was indebted to the United States for about US$4.5 bil- 
lion, incurred at high interest rates in the late 1970s and early 1980s, 
for the purchase of military equipment. Beginning in 1984, the 
United States provided all of its military assistance in grant form. 
The interest payments on the earlier debt amounted to as much 
as US$600 million in a single year. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait helped 
Egypt maintain its initial payments, and in 1989 Egypt was negotiat- 
ing a rescheduling of the debt at lower rates with the help of pri- 
vate banks (see Debt and Restructuring, ch. 3). 

Although as of early 1990 the United States continued to be 
Egypt's main supplier of military equipment, Egypt's policy of 
diversifying its sources of weaponry led it to enter into cooperative 


United States Army M-2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles maneuver 
in the Egyptian desert during Exercise Bright Star, 1987. 

Courtesy United States Department of Defense 

military relations with a number of other countries. Egypt acquired 
much of its modern aircraft from France, in some cases assembling 
them in Egypt. Egypt was engaged in a number of coproduction 
projects with Britain as well and assembled the Tucano primary 
trainer in cooperation with Brazil. Egypt acquired Chinese ver- 
sions of Soviet-designed aircraft and submarines. Although an in- 
sufficient supply of replacement parts of the large arsenal of outdated 
Soviet equipment continued to present a problem, Egypt entered 
into a new understanding with the Soviet Union in 1986 to permit 
resumption of a modest flow of parts. Moscow also agreed to relax 
the terms of repayment of Cairo's military debt to the Soviet 
Union — estimated to be between US$5 billion to US$7 billion — 
over twenty-five years without interest. According to ACDA, the 
value of arms transfers to Egypt between 1983 and 1987 amount- 
ed to about US$7.8 billion, of which US$3.4 billion came from 
the United States, US$1.6 billion from France, US$550 million 
from China, US$340 million from the Soviet Union, US$270 mil- 
lion from Italy, US$200 million from Britain, US$60 million from 
West Germany, and the remaining US$1 .4 billion from unidenti- 
fied sources. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Internal Security 

The level of violence in Egypt as a result of political or criminal 
activity has been below that of many countries of the Middle East. 
Periodic outbreaks of unrest have occurred as manifestations of 
popular discontent with economic conditions. These protests have 
mainly been localized or regional in scope and have been brought 
under control by the military when the forces of public order proved 
unable to deal with them. Rarely have political disturbances oc- 
curred on a national scale sufficient to threaten the existing politi- 
cal structure. 

Although opposition to Nasser and Sadat was often widespread, 
security forces usually managed to contain the discontent. Riots 
and mass demonstrations plagued the Sadat administration. Stu- 
dents and intellectuals demonstrated against the protracted negoti- 
ations over the return of Sinai, Egypt's cooperation with the United 
States, and what they regarded as an unduly moderate stance re- 
garding Arab-Israeli issues. Economic discontent led to violence 
on several occasions. For example, the 1977 food riots broke out 
when the government proposed to eliminate subsidies, thus raising 
the price of many common food items. The violence posed a seri- 
ous challenge to the regime, forcing Sadat to restore the subsidies. 
Mubarak attempted to relieve some of the tension that had been 
building up in Egypt by permitting increased political expression, 
at least through officially sanctioned channels. He also sought to re- 
lieve social unrest through the retention of food subsidies. In 1986, 
however, riots by the Central Security Forces threatened to break 
down public order. Loyal units of the armed forces successfully 
contained the unrest (see Police, this ch.). 

Religiously inspired activism was the source of much of the in- 
ternal violence that occurred during the 1980s. Muslim extremists 
had a wide following, but only a few of them were actually involved 
in assaults against governmental institutions. In general, Egypt's 
security forces demonstrated a capacity to suppress widespread vio- 
lence among Muslim extremists. As of early 1990, most observers 
believed that the majority of the population had rejected these rad- 
ical but factionalized fringe groups and that these groups present- 
ed no immediate threat to the political system. 

Muslim Extremism 

The main organization advocating the establishment of an Islamic 
government in Egypt was the Muslim Brotherhood (Al Ikhwan 
al Muslimun; also known as the Brotherhood). The Brotherhood, 
founded in 1928, was closely linked to groups that opposed the 


National Security 

British and the monarchy in the 1940s. It also provided some of 
the ideas that inspired the Free Officers' coup in 1952. The govern- 
ment suppressed the Brotherhood after some of the organization's 
members were suspected of involvement in an assassination attempt 
against Nasser in 1954. In an attempt to offset the strength of Egypt's 
political left, Sadat permitted the reemergence of the Brotherhood. 
He freed hundreds of Brotherhood members who had been jailed 
for political reasons. Shifting to nonviolent tactics, the dominant ele- 
ments of the Brotherhood sought respect and attempted to perme- 
ate the government and its institutions with Brotherhood adherents. 
Because it was a religious party, it could not participate directly in 
elections. Still, it ran a number of candidates in the 1984 and 1987 
elections in alliances with other opposition parties. The Brotherhood's 
successful campaign in 1987, in which it captured thirty-eight seats 
in the People's Assembly, indicated an intensifying pro-Islamist sen- 
timent in Egypt (see Islam, ch. 2; The Limits of Incorporation: The 
Rise of Political Islam and the Continuing Role of Repression, ch. 4). 

The Brotherhood represented the mainstream of the Islamic move- 
ment, in comparison with the estimated fifty more radical Islamic 
groups, collectively known as the Jamaat al Islamiyah (Islamic As- 
sociations), that operated clandestinely. Most of these other groups 
sought to overthrow the state and to reorder society in accordance 
with the sharia (Islamic law — see The Judicial System, this ch.). 
They also sought to reject Western political and social influence and 
to promote Arab militancy against Israel. In 1981 the followers of 
Al Jihad (Holy War) in the armed forces were responsible for the 
assassination of Sadat during a military parade. As a result of the 
assassination, the military dismissed 30 officers and 100 enlisted men 
because of their extreme religious views. An offshoot of Al Jihad, 
Baqaya Jihannam (Survivors of Hell), attempted in 1987 to assas- 
sinate the former minister of interior and a prominent editor. Reli- 
gious extremists, some of whom were military officers, also set fire 
to video rental shops, movie theaters, pharmacies, shops selling al- 
cohol, automobiles, and Coptic churches (see Coptic Church, ch. 
2). Some soldiers had stolen arms and ammunition from military 
stocks. Nonetheless, the government insisted on the ability of the 
intelligence services to keep radical groups from infiltrating the 

Radical Islam drew adherents from various social classes and par- 
ticularly among university students. By the 1980s, Muslim student 
organizations started to dominate campus life and have a strong influ- 
ence over faculties and university administrations. The total number 
of activists was believed to be several hundred thousand but the 
membership in clandestine organizations was small, with estimates 


Egypt: A Country Study 

ranging from 3,000 to 20,000. Activists involved in violence were 
thought to number as few as 1,000. 

The government was fairly successful in controlling underground 
movements in a series of crackdowns during each of which authori- 
ties arrested as many as 1,500 activists. Most of these activists were 
released after interrogation. The government did, however, prose- 
cute some of these activists on charges ranging from undermining 
the security of the state to terrorism. Police carried out an effec- 
tive surveillance program that included infiltration of campus groups 
and monitoring the activities of extremist leaders in Egypt and 
abroad. The police also closely watched twenty-five mosques that 
were suspected of being the headquarters of outlawed political 
groups and storage places for arms. 

Leftist Organizations 

Since the early 1950s, Egypt has banned the Communist Party 
of Egypt (CPE), which was formed in 1921. The National Progres- 
sive Unionist Organization (a bloc of leftist factions including some 
Marxists), however, was legal. Egyptian communism has tradi- 
tionally been a general movement of leftist factions rather than the 
platform of a cohesive single party. Before the 1952 Revolution, 
the movement was represented by the CPE as well as smaller groups 
with names such as the Egyptian Movement for National Libera- 
tion, the Spark, the Vanguard, the Marxist League, and the New 

After the overthrow of the monarchy, Marxist groups endorsed 
the new regime but withdrew their support when the Revolution- 
ary Command Council declared that Marxism was dangerous to 
state security and imprisoned many leftists. When Soviet Premier 
Nikita S. Khrushchev visited Cairo in 1964, Nasser released all 
imprisoned leftists. During the remainder of the 1960s, most leftists 
abandoned their illegal groups and joined the government party, 
the Arab Socialist Union (ASU). Many occupied important posi- 
tions, but their views and activities could not exceed the bounds 
of government tolerance. In 1971 Sadat dismissed a number of 
Marxists and known Soviet sympathizers from the ASU. Sadat 
again purged leftists from the ASU after he expelled Soviet advisers 
from Egypt in 1972 and after riots later that year and in early 1973. 
Sadat blamed them for inciting unrest. After the 1977 food riots 
and the 1986 police conscripts' riots, some observers blamed com- 
munist involvement, but most observers believed the riots were 
almost entirely spontaneous. An underground group, Thawrat Misr 
(Egypt's Revolution, also known as Thawrat Misr an Nassiriyah 
or Egypt's Nasserist Revolution), took credit for the murder of two 


National Security 

Israeli diplomats and the attempted murders of several Israeli and 
United States embassy personnel between 1984 and 1987. In 1986 
a number of members of the CPE were sentenced to prison for 
one to three years for producing and possessing subversive publi- 
cations. Later that year, forty-four members of a secret leftist group, 
Al Ittijah ath Thawri (Revolutionary Tendency), were arrested on 
charges of planning to overthrow the regime and replace it with 
a Marxist system. 

As of 1990, Egyptian left-wing groups remained factionalized. 
The CPE existed, but its membership was believed to be minus- 
cule. Other organizations, with names such as the Egyptian Com- 
munist Workers' Party, the Popular Movement, the Revolutionary 
Progressive Party, and the Armed Communist Organization, 
claimed to be part of the leftist underground. Foreign observers 
believed that the potential threat of these groups to the security 
of the state was insignificant in comparison to the potential threat 
of Islamic extremists. 


The Nasser and Sadat administrations initiated a number of 
police and law-enforcement reforms. They strengthened police or- 
ganization and improved public security. According to official state- 
ments, the incidence of serious crimes decreased because of these 
changes. Nevertheless, the tight political security enforced under 
Nasser created a police state. Although controls were greatly eased 
by Sadat, widespread dislike of the police persisted. 

Egypt's national police had a wide variety of functions and 
responsibilities. The national police was responsible for maintain- 
ing law and order, preventing and detecting crime, supporting the 
court system through the collection of evidence, and other police 
duties, including processing passports, screening immigrants, oper- 
ating prisons, controlling traffic, guarding special events and celebri- 
ties, suppressing smuggling and narcotics trafficking, preventing 
political subversion and sabotage, guarding transport and utility 
installations, preventing black marketing, and participating in civil 

Turkish and French systems influenced the organization of 
Egypt's police force until the late nineteenth century, when the Brit- 
ish modified the system. The national-level police force, set up in 
1883, was trained and staffed by British officials and became the 
basis for the system that was still used in 1990. In 1922, when the 
British, with reservations, relinquished sovereignty to the Egyp- 
tians, the police became a virtual private agency of the monarch, 
and police administration became even more highly centralized. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

After the 1952 Revolution (which was supported by the police), 
all police functions were placed under the direction of the Minis- 
try of Interior. 

As of early 1987, the size of the regular police force was report- 
ed to be about 122,000; an estimated 40,000 positions were un- 
filled because police jobs paid poorly and offered few benefits. A 
typical policeman in 1986 earned between £E60 and £E70 (US$30 
to US$35) a month. Salaries in real terms were lower in 1986 than 
in 1976. According to one Egyptian analysis, police salaries were 
low in part as a result of excessive allocations of funds for other 
purposes. The Ministry of Interior's budget had increased 400 per- 
cent over an eight-year period, but much of this money was spent 
on equipment used primarily for controlling riots. 

The low salaries encouraged many police officers to accept small 
bribes (in exchange for overlooking traffic citations, for example) 
to compensate for their unrealistically low wages. At a higher level, 
police corruption took the form of complicity in drug smuggling. 
The creation of law-enforcement bodies within the ministries of 
supply, transportation, and finance, and within the customs ser- 
vice diminished the authority of the police. According to one source, 
Egypt had thirty-four separate police forces as of 1986. 


Sadat's administration divided the functions of the police and 
public security among four deputy ministers of interior. The 
minister himself retained responsibility for state security investi- 
gations and overall organization. The deputy minister for public 
security oversaw sections responsible for public safety, travel, 
emigration, passports, port security, and criminal investigation. 
Responsibilities assigned to the deputy minister for special police 
included prison administration, the Central Security Forces, civil 
defense, police transport, communications, traffic, and tourism. 
The deputy minister for personnel affairs was responsible for police- 
training institutions, personnel matters for police and civilian em- 
ployees, and the Policemen's Sports Association. The deputy 
minister for administrative and financial affairs had charge of gener- 
al administration, budgets, supplies, and legal matters. 

Commissioned police ranks resembled ranks in the army. The 
highest-ranking police officer was a major general and ranks 
descended only to first lieutenant. Below first lieutenant, however, 
was the grade known as lieutenant-chief warrant officer, followed 
by three descending grades of warrant officers. Enlisted police held 
the grades of master sergeant, sergeant, corporal, and private. Police 


Cairo street scene with traffic police officer 
Courtesy Susan Becker 

rank insignia were the same as those used by the army, and uni- 
forms were also similar. 

In each governorate (sing., muhafazah; pi., muhafazat), a direc- 
tor of police commanded all police in the jurisdiction and, with 
the governor, was responsible for maintaining public order. Both 
the governor (a presidentially appointed figure) and the director 
of police reported to the Ministry of Interior on all security mat- 
ters; the governor reported directly to the minister or to a deputy, 
and the director of police reported to the ministry through regular 
police channels. In the subdivisions of the governorate, district police 
commandants had authority and functions that were similar to the 
director at the governorate level. In urban areas, police had modern 
facilities and equipment, such as computers and communications 
equipment. In smaller, more remote villages, police had less sophisti- 
cated facilities and equipment. 


Almost all commissioned officers were graduates of the Police 
College at Cairo. All police had to complete a three-month course 
at the college. The Police College was established in 1896 under 
British influence. It had developed into a modern institution 
equipped with laboratory and physical- training facilities. The police 


Egypt: A Country Study 

force also sent some officers abroad for schooling. From the 
mid-1950s to the mid-1970s, the force sent most of its overseas stu- 
dents to training institutions in the Soviet Union. By the early 1980s, 
the force starting sending student officers for training in Western 

The curriculum of the Police College included security adminis- 
tration, criminal investigation, military drills, civil defense, fire 
fighting, forensic medicine, communications, cryptology, first aid, 
sociology, anatomy, and the French and English languages. Political 
orientation, public relations, and military subjects (such as infantry 
and cavalry training), marksmanship, leadership, and field exer- 
cises were also included. Graduates of the two-year program 
received a bachelor of police studies degree and were commissioned 
first lieutenants. Advanced officer training was given at the college's 
Institute for Advanced Police Studies, completion of which was re- 
quired for advancement beyond the rank of lieutenant colonel. 
The college conducted its three-month course for enlisted ranks in a 
military atmosphere but emphasized police methods and techniques. 

Central Security Forces 

About 300,000 members of the paramilitary Central Security 
Forces (CSF) augmented the police force. The CSF was responsi- 
ble for guarding public buildings, hotels, strategic sites (such as 
water and power installations), and foreign embassies. They also 
helped direct traffic and control crowds. Formed in 1977 to obvi- 
ate the need to call upon the armed forces to deal with domestic 
disturbances, the CSF grew rapidly to 100,000 members when 
Mubarak took office. The government had hoped that the CSF 
would counterbalance the military's power, but the force never 
served this function. Poorly educated conscripts from rural areas 
who failed to meet the standards for army service filled the ranks 
of the CSF. Officers often treated the conscripts harshly and fre- 
quently humiliated them. Conscripts commonly lived in tents and 
sometimes lacked beds, adequate plumbing, and electricity. 

The Central Security Forces rioted in 1986 when a rumor spread 
that their term of service would be extended from three years to 
four years. They set hotels and nightclubs on fire in the tourist areas 
of Cairo and near the pyramids at Giza (Al Jizah) and destroyed 
automobiles. Army units restored order after the rioting had gone 
on for four days and had spread to other cities. When the uprising 
ended, hundreds of people were dead or wounded, and about 8,000 
CSF conscripts were missing. The CSF as a result dismissed more 
than 20,000 conscripts. 


National Security 

The minister of interior subsequently promised a series of re- 
forms in the CSF, including a reduction in the number of people 
to be drafted into the force. He also promised to raise training stan- 
dards, improve health care, and eliminate illiteracy. He doubled 
conscripts' wages (which had been lower than the wages of army 
conscripts) to £E12 a month. Nevertheless, as of 1987, living con- 
ditions appeared to have improved only marginally and the size 
of the force decreased by only 10 percent. The government con- 
tinued to use the CSF as the main force for dealing with student 
disturbances, intimidating industrial strikers and peasant demon- 
strators, and curbing gatherings of Islamic activists. 

Intelligence Services 

Internal security was the responsibility of three intelligence or- 
ganizations: General Intelligence, attached to the presidency; Mili- 
tary Intelligence, attached to the Ministry of Defense; and the 
General Directorate for State Security Investigations (GDSSI), un- 
der direct control of the minister of interior. Any of these agencies 
could undertake investigations of matters pertaining to national 
security, but the GDSSI was the main organization for domestic 
security matters. After the Sadat era, the tendency of military in- 
telligence to encroach on civilian security functions had been curbed. 

Nasser established a pervasive and oppressive internal security 
apparatus. The security police detained as many as 20,000 politi- 
cal prisoners at a time and discouraged public discussions or meet- 
ings that could be construed as unfriendly to the government. The 
security police recruited local informants to report on the activi- 
ties and political views of their neighbors. Under Sadat intelligence 
forces were less obtrusive but still managed to be well informed 
and effective in monitoring subversives, opposition politicians, and 
foreigners. The security police's failure to uncover the plot lead- 
ing to Sadat's assassination tarnished the reputation of the force. 
The security police also seemed to be taken by surprise by the CSF 
riots and failed to prevent other disorders such as a series of assas- 
sination attempts by radical Islamists in the late 1980s. 

The authorities have never revealed the personnel strength of 
the GDSSI, which played an important role in government by in- 
fluencing policy decisions and personnel matters. The GDSSI en- 
gaged routinely in surveillance of opposition politicians, journalists, 
political activists, foreign diplomats, and suspected subversives. The 
GDSSI focused on monitoring underground networks of radical 
Islamists and probably planted agents in those organizations. Ac- 
cording to some sources, the GDSSI had informants in all govern- 
ment departments and public-sector companies, labor unions, 


Egypt: A Country Study 

political parties, and the news media. The organization was also 
believed to monitor telephone calls and correspondence by the po- 
litical opposition and by suspected subversives. 

In the past, the regime had given the GDSSI considerable lee- 
way in maintaining political control and using emergency laws to 
intimidate people suspected of subversion (see The Judicial Sys- 
tem, this ch.). The GDSSI remained in 1990 the primary organ 
for combatting political subversion even after Mubarak and the 
judiciary took several steps to limit the organization's power. 

The GDSSI was accused of torturing Islamic extremists to ex- 
tract confessions. In 1986 forty GDSSI officers went on trial for 
422 charges of torture that were brought by Al Jihad defendants. 
After lengthy legal wrangling, the court absolved all the GDSSI 
officers in mid- 1988. The judgment concluded that the GDSSI had 
indeed tortured Al Jihad members but said there was insufficient 
evidence to link the particular GDSSI officers on trial with the 

Crime and Punishment 
The Judicial System 

Egypt based its criminal codes and court operations primarily 
on British, Italian, and Napoleonic models. Criminal court proce- 
dures had been substantially modified by the heritage of Islamic 
legal and social patterns and the legacy of numerous kinds of courts 
that formerly existed. The divergent sources and philosophical ori- 
gins of these laws and the inapplicability of many borrowed Western 
legal concepts occasioned difficulties in administering Egyptian law. 
The Criminal Procedure Code of 1950 prescribed the jurisdiction 
of various courts and provided basic guidance for the conduct of in- 
vestigations and trial procedures. 

The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups brought de- 
mands on the government to adopt Islamic sharia. Government 
officials argued that adopting Islamic sharia was not necessary be- 
cause 95 percent of Egypt's laws were already consistent with or 
derived from Islamic law. In 1985 the People's Assembly rejected 
demands for the immediate adoption of the sharia but supported 
a recommendation to review all statutes and change the ones that 
conflicted with Islamic law. This process, which was expected to 
continue for years, necessitated the review of approximately 6,000 
laws and 10,000 peripheral legal acts. 

The criminal code listed three main categories of crime: con- 
traventions (minor offenses), misdemeanors (offenses punishable 
by imprisonment or fines), and felonies (offenses punishable by 


National Security 

penal servitude or death). Lower courts handled the majority of 
the cases that reached adjudication and levied fines in about nine 
out of ten cases. At their discretion, courts could suspend fines or 
imprisonment (when a sentence did not exceed one year). At the 
village level, a village headman, an umdah (pi., umada), represent- 
ing the central authority was responsible for maintaining order. 
The umdah could also adjudicate some minor offenses and impose 
short prison sentences. 

Capital crimes that carried a possible death sentence included 
murder, manslaughter occurring in the commission of a felony, 
arson or the use of explosives that caused death, rape, treason, and 
endangerment of state security. Few convictions for capital crimes, 
however, resulted in execution. The supreme court, the mufti (see 
Glossary) of Egypt, and the president reviewed each death sen- 
tence. In 1987 Egypt executed six individuals for murder and two 
others for abduction and rape. 

The investigation of a crime was a sort of preliminary trial, and 
the results of the investigation determined the disposition of the 
case. The Office of the Public Prosecutor, an institution under the 
Ministry of Justice, conducted investigations. After an investiga- 
tion with the help of police officials from the district involved, the 
public prosecutor could decide to drop a case if the charges were 
not serious enough to warrant a trial. 

Egypt's laws required that a detained person be brought before 
a magistrate and formally charged within forty-eight hours or 
released. The accused was entitled to post bail and had the right 
to be defended by legal counsel. Searches could not be conducted 
without a warrant. Trials were open to the public, but the court 
could choose to hold all or part of the hearing in camera "in order 
to preserve public order or morals." According to the United States 
Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 
Egypt's judiciary acted independently and carefully observed con- 
stitutional and legal safeguards in arrests and pretrial custody. The 
Emergency Law of 1958 outlined special judicial procedures for 
some cases. The law enabled authorities to circumvent the increas- 
ingly independent regular court system in cases where people were 
charged with endangering state security. The law applied primar- 
ily to Islamic radicals but also covered leftists suspected of politi- 
cal violence, drug smugglers, and illegal currency dealers. It also 
allowed detention of striking workers, pro-Palestinian student 
demonstrators, and relatives of fugitives. 

The Emergency Law of 1958 authorized the judicial system to 
detain people without charging them or guaranteeing them due 
process while an investigation was under way. After thirty days, 


Egypt: A Country Study 

a detainee could petition the State Security Court to review the 
case. If the court ordered the detainee's release, the minister of 
interior had fifteen days to object. If the minister overruled the 
court's decision, the detainee could petition another State Securi- 
ty Court for release after thirty more days. If the second court sup- 
ported the detainee's petition, it released the detainee. The minister 
of interior could, however, simply rearrest the detainee. The govern- 
ment commonly engaged in this practice in cases involving Islam- 
ic extremists. 

The State Security Courts preserved most procedural safeguards. 
They barred secret testimony, upheld defendants' rights to be 
represented by an attorney, and gave attorneys access to the prose- 
cution's investigations. Trials were usually in public, except in some 
cases involving political violence. Convicted persons could appeal 
to the Court of Cassation (see The Judiciary, Civil Rights, and 
the Rule of Law, ch. 4). The State Security Courts drew their judges 
from the ranks of the senior judiciary. 

In most cases, detainees were released after a period of interro- 
gation and were never brought to trial. In mid- 1989 the minister 
of interior stated that a total of 12,000 individuals had been de- 
tained under the Emergency Law of 1958 during the preceding 
three years. As of early 1990 the government acknowledged that 
it was detaining 2,411 individuals, 813 of whom were being held 
on political charges. 

In certain instances, civilian suspects could be turned over to mili- 
tary courts for trial on the basis of a presidential order. This prac- 
tice was the subject of a constitutional challenge initiated in 1989. 

In 1980 the government created a separate judicial institution, 
the Court of Ethics, together with its investigating arm, the Office 
of the Socialist Prosecutor, to investigate complaints of widespread 
corruption in government. The court was charged with trying 
offenses against "socialist values," which included corruption and 
illegal business practices. The Office of the Socialist Prosecutor 
served as watchdog against abuses by government officials; ap- 
proved the credentials of candidates for office in the trade union 
movement, professional syndicates, and local government coun- 
cils; and performed security checks on senior government ap- 

Incidence of Crime 

Ordinary crime, that is, crime unconnected to political dissent 
or sectarian strife, was perceived to be a major problem during 
the 1980s, although it was difficult to demonstrate a strong upsurge 
in criminal activity on the basis of the limited data available. Minor 


Immigration officer checking 
passport of one of about 
2 million tourists 
who visit annually 
Courtesy Embassy 
of Egypt, Washington 


crimes, such as petty theft, pickpocketing, and purse snatching, 
were widespread in the streets of metropolitan Cairo, but violence 
in the commission of these crimes was uncommon. In rural areas, 
crime victims generally sought retribution without going to the 
authorities, especially in cases where the honor of an individual 
or a family was tarnished. An informal analysis found that more 
than half the murder cases in rural areas occurred within the fam- 
ily and commonly involved issues of passion, honor, or vengeance. 

Reliable official statistics on crime were not available, but an 
Egyptian report to Interpol, the international police organization, 
in 1988 recorded 784 murders, 364 serious assaults, 189 morals 
offenses, and 322 robberies involving violence. Thefts totaled 
19,964, including 1,397 auto thefts but only 14 armed robberies. 
There were 1,313 cases of fraud and 10,559 drug offenses. The 
police claimed to have solved more than 90 percent of the major 
crimes and 75 percent of the thefts. The level of criminal activity 
reported appeared to be surprisingly low and the success rate in 
solving crimes unusually high, particularly in light of the belief that 
urban crime was escalating. The police recorded a total of more 
than 1,500,000 infractions of all kinds; presumably this included 
petty crimes and misdemeanors and such offenses as evasion of price 

In an interview in late 1989, the director of security for Cairo 
attributed higher crime rates to bad economic conditions, high 


Egypt: A Country Study 

unemployment, population growth, and changes in social norms. 
In 1988 Cairo experienced sharp increases in the theft of cars and 
other goods, offenses by women and juveniles, kidnappings, and 
vice cases. Bank robberies, gang activity, and other violence con- 
tinued to be uncommon, however. 

White-collar crime, smuggling, black marketing in currency, and 
other economic offenses were rampant and increased under the 
Sadat and Mubarak regimes. Sadat established special commis- 
sions to investigate official corruption. Soon after taking office, 
Mubarak condemned favoritism and graft and replaced several cabi- 
net members whom he thought were inadequate in their efforts 
to detect and expose corruption. Nevertheless, economic crimes 
continued to be widespread. These crimes included embezzlement, 
tax and customs evasion, illegal currency transactions, smuggling 
and trading contraband, diversion of subsidized goods, "leakages" 
from free trade zones, kickbacks, and bribes to officials. In 1986 
Egyptian officials arrested about 102,000 individuals for "supply 
violations," which included petty infringements by shopkeepers 
and vendors, such as their failure to observe price controls. Some 
of these violations, however, involved large enterprises engaged 
in major infractions, often with the connivance of government 

Drug Trafficking 

The use of narcotics became an increasingly serious problem in 
Egypt during the 1980s. Some officials estimated that as many as 
2 million Egyptians were users of illegal drugs as of 1989. Many 
of these users were students and children of wealthy parents. Many 
people used cocaine or heroin, while others used opium or hashish, 
which Egyptians have commonly smoked for centuries. Accord- 
ing to one source, Egypt had about 250,000 heroin addicts in 1988. 
Police claimed that drug use was spreading at a frightening pace 
and that the rising cost of narcotics was causing addicts to commit 
crimes to obtain money for drugs. 

A large amount of the hashish and opium sold in Egypt was 
produced domestically. In 1988 and 1989, however, Egyptian 
authorities seized large shipments of heroin and other drugs that 
were probably produced in Lebanon and Pakistan. An estimated 
300 kilograms of heroin were sold in Egypt in 1988. In 1984 (the 
latest year for which data were available) an estimated 264,000 kilo- 
grams of hashish and 2,000 kilograms of opium were sold. The 
value of the illegal drugs sold in 1988 was estimated at US$1 billion. 

Law-enforcement authorities were more successful in arresting 
people who sold drugs on the streets — typically owners of kiosks 


National Security 

where cigarettes were normally purchased — than major drug deal- 
ers, who were apparently able to buy immunity by bribes to high 
officials. The government had begun punishing drug violations 
more severely and had proposed subjecting some offenders to the 
death penalty. Egypt convicted about 3,500 people on charges of 
narcotics trafficking in 1982. About 2,500 of these individuals 
received sentences ranging from six months to one year; about 1 ,000 
persons received sentences of five years or less, and 15 received 
life sentences at hard labor. By 1988 Egypt had imposed much stiffer 
penalties. A woman from Britain, for example, received a twenty- 
five-year sentence for smuggling a small amount of heroin into the 

The Penal System 

Prison administration was under the jurisdiction of the Minis- 
try of Interior. Prison officials were usually graduates of police or 
military schools. The main categories of penal institutions were peni- 
tentiaries, general prisons, district jails, and juvenile reformatories. 
Criminals receiving heavy sentences were sent to penitentiaries 
where they faced hard labor and strict discipline. Penitentiaries 
could subject prisoners to solitary confinement only as a discipli- 
nary measure for bad behavior. General prisons housed offenders 
who were sentenced to more than three months. District jails usually 
housed prisoners who were sentenced for up to three months. Vil- 
lage police stations had jail facilities that they used only for tem- 
porary incarceration. As of the mid-1980s, Egypt had three major 
penitentiaries and twenty- seven general prisons. 

After the 1952 Revolution, Egypt implemented some reforms 
in the quality of penal administration. The government built hospi- 
tals in major prisons and provided separate facilities for women. 
Prisons adopted the concept of rehabilitation; juvenile prisoners 
received special attention; and, in cases of need, provision was made 
for assisting a prisoner's family. 

Egyptian prisons were overcrowded; facilities designed to hold 
fewer than 20,000 prisoners housed about 30,000. Most of the 
prisons were built in the early twentieth century and needed com- 
plete renovation or replacement. Six prisons were under construc- 
tion in 1988 in nonresidential areas, where space was available for 
farming and dairying by convict laborers. 

According to the United States Department of State's Country 
Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1987, prison conditions and treat- 
ment varied considerably. Some institutions lacked adequate med- 
ical and sanitary facilities. Tora Prison near Cairo, where convicted 
members of Al Jihad were incarcerated, had a particularly bad 


Egypt: A Country Study 

reputation. Other prisons provided better living conditions and 
offered inmates recreational programs and vocational training. In 
its 1987 report, the Arab Human Rights Organization criticized 
what it termed "supervision" of the prison system by officers of 
the GDSSI. 

In an interview appearing in a Cairo newspaper in August 1988, 
then Minister of Interior Zaki Badr acknowledged that "conditions 
inside the prisons are terrible . . . the prisons are a hotbed of drug 
and monetary crimes . . . even more so among the guards them- 
selves." He said that the penal system planned to implement 
modern methods of prison security, improve communication sys- 
tems among guards, and install electronic closed-circuit television 
monitoring systems and special measures to ensure efficiency and 
discipline among prison officers and guards. 

According to the 1988 report of the human rights organization 
Amnesty International, there were many allegations of torture and 
poor treatment of detainees, particularly in parts of the Tora Pris- 
on complex. Torture was apparently inflicted to obtain confessions 
in 1987 after a series of assassination attempts against high offi- 
cials. Egypt has refused to allow representatives from groups such 
as the Arab Human Rights Organization and the International Red 
Cross to inspect the country's prisons and meet with prisoners. 
Members of the People's Assembly who represented opposition par- 
ties were also refused access to the prisons. A report by the Egyp- 
tian Organization for Human Rights in early 1990 claimed that 
there was a marked increase in the use of torture in 1989, not only 
against members of subversive organizations but also against or- 
dinary citizens with no political affiliations. Muhammad Abd al 
Halim Musa replaced Badr as minister of interior in January 1990. 
Badr had long been criticized for harsh repression of Islamic ex- 
tremists and violations of civil liberties. Egyptian human rights ac- 
tivists hoped that his successor would adopt more moderate policies 
and improve the treatment of prisoners. 

* * * 

A number of articles on the modern role, mission, and equip- 
ment of the Egyptian armed forces are included in the December 
1989 issue of Defense and Foreign Affairs under the heading "Defense 
in Egypt." Additional material, some of it no longer current, can 
be found in the article on Egypt by Gwynne Dyer and John Kee- 
gan in the compendium World Armies. In Fighting Armies, G.P. Arm- 
strong summarizes Egypt's military doctrine, fighting qualities, and 
perception of national security. Trevor N. Dupuy's Elusive Victory 


National Security 

evaluates the performance of the Egyptian armed forces in the suc- 
cessive wars with Israel. The Military Balance, 1989-1990, published 
by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, pro- 
vides the most reliable data on current force strengths and weapons. 

Robert Springborg's Mubarak's Egypt assesses the influence of 
Abu Ghazala on the Egyptian armed forces during the 1980s and 
the importance of the new military-operated production enterprises. 
Contrasting interpretations of the status of the military under 
Mubarak are presented by Robert B. Satloff in Army and Politics 
in Mubarak's Egypt and by Ahmed Abdallah in an article, "The 
Armed Forces and the Democratic Process in Egypt," in Third 
World Quarterly. In Egyptian Politics under Sadat, Raymond A. Hin- 
nebusch, Jr. provides an account of the depoliticization of the mili- 
tary during the 1970s. The criminal justice system, the application 
of the Emergency Law, and prison conditions are appraised in the 
United States Department of State's annual Country Reports on Hu- 
man Rights Practices. The significance of the Islamic activist move- 
ment as a potential threat to internal security has been analyzed 
in numerous studies, including Springborg's book previously men- 
tioned, an article by former United States Ambassador to Egypt 
Hermann Frederick Eilts, "Egypt in 1986," in the Washington Quar- 
terly, an article by Yahya Sadowski, "Egypt's Islamist Movement: 
A New Political and Economic Force," in Middle East Insight, and 
the book by Thomas W. Lippman, Egypt after Nasser. A brief com- 
mentary by Lillian Craig Harris in Middle East International is notable 
for its conclusion that the threat to the political system by religious 
zealotry remains remote. (For further information and complete 
citations, see Bibliography.) 




1 Metric Conversion Coefficients and Factors 

2 Enrollment by Education Level and Sex, 1985-86 

3 Gross Domestic Product by Sector, Selected Years, 1952-87 

4 Government Budgets, Selected Years, 1979-88 

5 Monetary Survey, Selected Years, 1980-88 

6 Employment Distribution by Sector, Selected Years, 1966-86 

7 Cropped Area, Selected Years, 1952-87 

8 Major Crop Production, Selected Years, 1974-87 

9 Planned Public and Private Investment, FY 1987-91 Five- 

Year Plan 

10 Value of Foreign Trade, Selected Years, 1979-88 

11 Summary of Balance of Payments, Selected Years, 1979-88 

12 External Debt, Selected Years, 1982-8813 Major Army Equip- 

ment, 1989 

13 Major Army Equipment, 1989 

14 Major Air Force Equipment, 1989 

15 Major Navy Equipment, 1989 

16 Major Air Defense Force Equipment, 1989 



Table 1. 

Metric Conversion Coefficients and Factors 

When you know 

Multiply by 

To find 





9. "i 



riectares (1U,UUU m'j . 




square miles 

Cubic meters 

cubic teet 






long tons 


short tons 




degrees Fahrenheit 


divide by 5 

and add 32 

Table 2. Enrollment by Education 
Level and Sex, 1985-86 

Level Male Female Total 

Primary 3,397,779 2,605,071 6,002,850 

Intermediate 1,274,137 860,870 2,135,007 


General 355,454 213,912 569,366 

Technical 526,283 351,116 877,399 

Total secondary 881,737 565,028 1,446,765 

Teacher training 34,113 50,474 84,587 

University 445,963 215,384 661,347 

Source: Based on information from The Middle East and North Africa, 1989, London, 1989, 395. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Table 3. Gross Domestic Product by Sector, 
Selected Years, 1952-87 
(in percentages) 









33 1 

29 1 






13 1 

23 1 






. . 53 1 

50 1 














Value 3 

983 1 

1,813 1 






1 At 1959-60 current market prices; all other years are 1980 prices at factor cost. 

2 Figures may not add to total because of rounding. 

3 In millions of Egyptian pounds (for value of the Egyptian pound — see Glossary). 

Source: Based on information from Bent Hansen and Karim Nashashibi, Foreign Trade 
Regimes and Economic Development, New York, 1975, 12-13; and World Bank, World 
Debt Tables, 1988-89, Baltimore, 1989, 236-39. 



Table 4. Government Budgets, Selected Years, 1979-88 
(in millions of Egyptian pounds) 1 






Central government 










, . , , 659 


2,300 s 

Personal income 



150 \ 

5,972 2 













Petroleum company 





i && 




. . . . Ill 



o coo 





Local government and other 

, , , , 386 




Self-financing investments 










2 375 







2, '766 


Deficit of public enterprises 
















Gross public investment 





Total expenditures 

. . . . n.a. 




Gross deficit (-) 





Expenditures as percentage 

of GDP 3 





Revenues as percentage 

of GDP 





Gross deficit as percentage 

of GDP 





n.a. — not available. 

1 For value of the Egyptian pound — see Glossary. 

2 Aggregate figure for four categories. 

3 GDP — gross domestic product. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Table 5. Monetary Survey, 
Selected Years, 1980-88 
(in millions of Egyptian pounds) 1 






Time savings and foreign 





Other 2 









Domestic credit 

Central government 





Public sector 





Private sector 





Other 3 





, , , , 14,065 




Money supply 4 










Total money supply 









1 For value of the Egyptian pound — see Glossary. 

2 Includes government, demand, and import deposits. 

3 Includes institutions similar to banks. 

4 Includes combined currency in circulation, private demand deposits, time deposits (including foreign 
currency), and post office saving deposits. 

Source: Based on information from International Monetary Fund, Financial Statistics, 
Washington, 1987, 318-20; and International Monetary Fund, Financial Statistics, 
Washington, 1989, 308-10. 



Table 6. Employment Distribution by Sector, 
Selected Years, 1966-86 
(in thousands) 

Sector 1966 1 1976 1 1983 1986 1 

Agriculture 2 4,447 4,224 4,385 4,542 

Industry 3 1,140 1,257 1,696 1,954 

Trade 559 1,016 1,188 1,187 

Construction 206 434 724 336 

Transportation and 

communications 340 422 464 581 

Other services 1,602 2,276 4,012 3,818 

TOTAL 8,294 9,629 12,469 12,418 

1 Census year. 

2 Includes fishing. 

3 Includes mining, manufacturing, and electricity. 

Source: Based on information from United States, Department of Commerce, International 
Trade Administration, Marketing in Egypt, Washington, December 1981, 6; Khalid 
Ikram, et al., Egypt: Economic Management in a Period of Transition, Baltimore, 1980, 
134-35; and National Bank of Egypt, Economic Bulletin, 40, Nos. 1-2, 1987. 

Table 7. Cropped Area, Selected Years, 1952-87 
(in thousands oifeddans) 1 

Cropped Area 





Winter crops 2 

Summer crops 3 

Fall crops 4 

Fruit orchards 










1 See Glossary. 

2 Main crops include wheat, beans, barley, onions, 

and clover (for 


3 Main crops include cotton, rice, millet, and sugarcane. 

4 Main crop is corn. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Table 8. Major Crop Production, Selected Years, 1974-87 

1974 1980 1987 

Crop Area 1 Output 2 Area Output Area Output 

Clover 2,797 49 2,711 54 2,714 55 

Cotton 1,453 1,204 1,245 1,408 980 978 

Corn 1,387 2,640 1,905 3,231 1,811 3,367 

Wheat 1,370 1,884 1,326 1,736 1,373 2,721 

Rice 1,051 2,244 972 2,382 983 2,279 

Vegetables 895 6,520 1,027 8,013 1,024 9,964 

Fruits 320 2,068 437 3,757 616 3,666 

1 In thousands of feddans (see Glossary). 

2 In tons. 

Table 9. Planned Public and Private Investment, 
FY 1987-91 Five-Year Plan 
(in millions of Egyptian pounds) 1 

Investment Public Private Total 























Petroleum products 











1 For value of the Egyptian pound — see Glossary. 

2 Figures may not add to total because of rounding. 

Source: Based on information from Egypt's Second Five-Year Plan for Socio-Economic Develop- 
ment (1987/88-1991/92), with Plan for Year One (1987/88), Cairo, 1987, 165. 



Table 10. Value of Foreign Trade, 
Selected Years, 1979-88 
(in millions of United States dollars) 





Exports (f.o.b.) 1 










Oil (domestic companies) 

.... 1,880 




Oil (foreign companies) 


















Imports (c.i.f.) 2 

.... 1,677 




Oil and other energy 





Other consumer goods 





Intermediate goods 





Capital goods 





Total imports 





Trade deficit 





Terms of trade 3 





Import price index 









1 f.o.b. — free on board. 

2 c.i.f. — cost, insurance, and freight. 

3 Terms of trade means export price index divided by import price index. Index used is 



Egypt: A Country Study 

Table 11. Summary of Balance of Payments, 
Selected Years, 1979-88 
(in millions of United States dollars) 

1979 1985 1988 

Current account 

Exports of goods and nonfactor services 


409 1 


Suez Canal 












Imports of goods and nonfactor services 












Trade balance 




Net factor income 







1 nor; 

-l ,yyo 

Net current transfers 




n a 



3 ^99 





Trade balance as percentage 

of GDP 5 




Current account balance as 




apital account 

Long-term capital inflows 
















Table 11. — Continued 




Total other net items 
Net short-term capital 
Errors and omissions 










Change in reserves 7 




n.a. — not available. 

1 Income from Egypt Air moved from this item to nonfactor services. 

2 Projected. 

3 Includes interest on arrears and estimates of interest on military as well as short-term debt. 

4 Current account balance consists of total of trade balance, net factor income, and net current transfers. 

5 GDP — gross domestic product. 

6 Includes arrears on Western military debt. 

7 Change in reserves consists of total of current account balance, long-term capital inflows, and total 
other net items. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Table 12. External Debt, Selected Years, 1982-88 1 
(in millions of United States dollars) 




1988 2 

Civilian debt 










Interest arrears 

, 670 









By creditor 






7 ^07 
/ ,Oo/ 

7 97Q 






By borrower 


















As percentage of GDP 3 





As percentage of exports 

of goods and services 














n.a. — not available. 

1 Figures are annual averages for periods indicated. 

2 Projected. 

3 GDP — gross domestic product. 

Source: Based on information from Institute of International Finance, Egypt: Country Report, 
88, No. 2, Washington, August 15, 1988, 3. 



Table 13. Major Army Equipment, 1989 

Type and Description 

Country of Origin Inventory 





PT-76 (light) 

Armored vehicles 

BRDM-2, scout car 

BMP-1, infantry combat 

BMR-600P, wheeled, various 

Armored personnel carriers 

Walid, four-wheeled 

Fahd, four-wheeled 



Towed artillery 

M-31/-37, 122mm 

M-1938, 122mm 

D-30, 122mm 

M-46, 130mm 

M-1937, 152mm 

Multiple rocket launchers 

VAP-80-12, 80mm 

BM-21/Saqr 18, 122mm 

M-51 on Praga truck chassis . . 

BM-13-16, 132mm 

BM-14-16, 140mm 

BM-24, 240mm 

Surface-to-surface missile launchers 

FROG-7, 60 km range 

Scud-B, 300 km range 

Saqr D-3000, 80 km range 

Saqr D-6000, 122mm 


M-43, 120mm 

M-43, 160mm 

M-1953, 240mm 

Antitank guided missile launchers 

AT-1 Snapper 

AT-2 Swatter 

AT-3 Sagger 




Recoilless rifles 

B-ll, 107mm 

United States 
Soviet Union 





West Germany, Egypt 
Soviet Union 
United States 

Soviet Union 

Soviet Union 


Soviet Union 
Soviet Union, Egypt 
Soviet Union 

Soviet Union 

Soviet Union 



Britain, Egypt 
United States 

Soviet Union 













Egypt: A Country Study 
Table 13. — Continued 

Type of Description 

Country of Origin 


Air defense guns 

ZPU-2/-4, 14.5mm 

ZU-23-2, 23mm 

ZSU-23-4, 23mm, self-propelled 

Nile, 23mm , 

M-1939, 37mm 

S-60, 57mm , 

ZSU-57-2, 57mm, self-propelled 

Soviet Union 

Soviet Union 






Surface-to-air missile launchers 

SA-7/Ayn as Saqr/SA-9, shoulder-fired 
M-54 Chaparral, self-propelled 

Soviet Union, Egypt 
United States 


n.a. — not available. 

Source: Based on information from The Military Balance, 1989-1990, London, 1989, 98; 
DMS Market Intelligence Reports, DMS Foreign Military Markets — Middle East/Africa, 
Greenwich, Connecticut, 1989; and Military Technology and Economics (Miltech), Bonn, 
January 1989, 1985. 



Table 14. Major Air Force Equipment, 1989 

Type and Description 

Country of Origin 


Fighter-ground attack aircraft 

Mirage 5E2 

F-4E Phantom 

Shenyang J-6 (MiG-19) . . . 
Alpha Jet 

MiG-17 Fresco 

Fighter-interceptor aircraft 

MiG-21 Fishbed 

Shenyang J-7 (MiG-21F) . . 
F-16A/C Fighting Falcon . , 

Mirage 5E 

Mirage 2000C 

Reconnaissance aircraft 

Mirage 5 SDR 

MiG-21 Fishbed 


Tu-16 Badger 

Electronic warfare 

EC-130H Hercules 

Beech 1900 

Airborne early warning 

E-2C Hawkeye 

Transport aircraft 

C-130H Hercules 

An- 12 Cub 

DHC-5D Buffalo 

Training aircraft 

Shenyang J-6 (MiG-19) . . . 
Alpha Jet 

L-29 Delfin (being replaced) 

EMB-312 Tucano 

Mirage 5 SDD 

Mirage 2000B 

F-16B D Fighting Falcon . . 
DHC-5 Buffalo 

Attack helicopters 


United States 
China, Egypt 
France, West 

Soviet Union 

China, Egypt 
United States 


Soviet Union 


United States 


Soviet Union 

China, Egypt 
France, West 

C zechoslo vakia 
Egypt, West 

Brazil, Egypt 
United States 

France, Egypt 











Egypt: A Country Study 

Table 14. — Continued 

Type and Description 

Country of Origin 


Transport helicopters 

CH-47C Chinook, heavy Italy 15 

Mi-6, heavy Soviet Union 6 

Mi-8, heavy -do- 27 

Mk-1, Commando, medium Britain 23 

Hiller UH-12E, light (training) United States 17 

Mi-4, light Soviet Union 12 

Naval helicopters 

Sea King, antisubmarine Britain 5 

Gazelle, antiship France, Egypt 12 

Source: Based on information from The Military Balance, 1989-1990, London, 1989, 99; 
and Aviation Advisory Services, International Air Forces and Military Aircraft Directory, 
Essex, United Kingdom, 1989, 33-37. 



Table 15. Major Navy Equipment, 1989 

Country Commissioned 
Type and Description of Origin Inventory or Delivered 


Al Fatah, British Z class, 
1,730 tons (training) 


Descubierta class, 1,480 
tons, Harpoon surface-to- 
surface missiles (SSMs) 

Jianghu class, 2,000 tons, 
HY-2 Silkworm SSMs 

Black Swan class, 1,925 
tons (training) 


Romeo class, 1,400 tons 
(four being modernized 
with Harpoon SSMs and 
Mk 37 torpedoes) 
Whiskey class, 1,080 tons 
(being retired) 

Fast-attack craft, missile 
Ramadan class, 307 tons, 

Otomat SSMs 
Osa-I class, 210 tons, 

SS-N-2A Styx SSMs 
October class, 82 tons, 

Otomat SSMs 
Hegu class, 80 tons, 

Chinese version 

of Styx missile 

Fast-attack craft, torpedo 
Shershen class, 170 tons 
Shanghai II class, 

155 tons 
Hainan class, 392 tons 

Landing ships, multipurpose 
Polnochny A class, 

800 tons 
Vydra class, 600 tons 
SMB-1 class, 360 tons 


T-43 class, 580 tons 
Yurka class, 520 tons 
T-301, 180 tons (inshore) 




Soviet Union, 

Transferred 1955; 
modernized 1964. 

Commissioned 1984. 


Transferred 1949. 

Transferred 1966-f 



and 1982-84. 

Soviet Union 


Transferred 1957 

and 1962. 





Soviet Union 






Refitted 1978-81 

in Britain. 



Delivered 1984. 

Soviet Union 


Delivered 1967-6* 



Transferred 1984. 





Soviet Union 











Transferred 1970. 



Transferred 1969. 



Transferred 1962. 


Egypt: A Country Study 
Table 15. — Continued 

Country Commissioned 
Type and Description of Origin Inventory or Delivered 

Coast Guard 

Large patrol craft Various 32 n.a. 

Bertram coastal United States 20 n.a. 

patrol craft 

Source: Based on information from Jane's Fighting Ships, 1989-90, Alexandria, Virginia, 
1989, 148-55. 

Table 16. Major Air Defense Force Equipment, 1989 

Type and Description 

Country of Origin Inventory 

Antiaircraft guns 

20mm, 23mm 37mm, 40mm, 
57mm, 85mm, and 100mm 



Surface-to-air missile (SAM) launchers 

Improved Hawk 

Soviet Union 


United States 


Air defense systems Italy, United 18 

Amun (Skyguard) — Sparrow and Ayn as Saqr States, Egypt 

SAMs with 35mm radar-guided guns 

Source: Based on information from The Military Balance, 1989-1990, London, 1989, 99. 



Chapter 1 

Abdel-Fadil, Mahmoud. Employment and Income Distribution in Egypt, 
1952-1970. (University of East Anglia Discussion Paper No. 4.) 

Abdel-Malek, Anouar. Egypt: Military Society. New York: Vintage 
Books, 1968. 

Aldred, Cyril. The Egyptians. London: Thames and Hudson, 1984. 
. Egypt to the End of the Old Kingdom. New York: McGraw- 
Hill, 1976. 

Aly , Abdel Moneim Said. Back to the Fold? Egypt and the Arab World. 
(Occasional Papers Series.) Washington: Center for Contem- 
porary Arab Studies, Georgetown University, 1988. 

Armour, Robert A. Gods and Myths of Ancient Egypt. Cairo: Ameri- 
can University in Cairo Press, 1986. 

Badran, Margot. "Dual Liberation: Feminism and Nationalism in 
Egypt, 1870s-1925," Feminist Issues, 8, No. 1, Spring 1988, 15-34. 

Baer, Gabriel. "Social Change in Egypt, 1800-1914." Pages 135- 
61 in P.M. Holt (ed.), Political and Social Change in Modern Egypt. 
London: Oxford University Press, 1968. 

. Studies in the Social History of Modern Egypt. Chicago: Univer- 
sity of Chicago Press, 1969. 

Beinin, Joel, and Zachary Lockman. Workers on the Nile: National- 
ism, Communism, Islam, and the Egyptian Working Class, 1882-1954. 
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987. 

Bell, H. Idris. Egypt From Alexander the Great to the Arab Conquest. Ox- 
ford: Clarendon Press, 1948. 

Butler, Alfred. The Arab Conquest of Egypt. New York: AMS Press, 

Cole, Juan Ricardo. "Feminism, Class, and Islam in Turn-of-the- 
Century Egypt." International Journal of Middle East Studies, 10, 
No. 2, May 1979, 387-407. 

Crecelius, Daniel. The Roots of Modern Egypt. Minneapolis: Bibliothe- 
ca Islamica, 1981. 

Davis, Eric. Challenging Colonialism: Bank Misr and Egyptian Industri- 
alization, 1920-1941. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983. 

Deeb, Marius. Party Politics in Egypt: The Wafd and Its Rivals, 
1919-1939. London: Ithaca Press, 1979. 

Dekmejian, Richard Hrair. Egypt under Nasir: A Study in Political 
Dynamics. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1971. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Erman, Adolf. Life in Ancient Egypt. (Trans., H.M. Tirard.) New 
York: Dover, 1971. 

Frankfort, Henri. The Birth of Civilization in the Near East. Blooming- 
ton: Indiana University Press, 1959. 

Freedman, Robert O. Soviet Policy Toward the Middle East since 1970. 
(3d ed.) New York: Praeger, 1982. 

Gazetteer of Egypt. (2d ed.) Washington: Defense Mapping Agen- 
cy, August 1987. 

Goldberg, Ellis. Tinker, Tailor, and Textile Worker: Class and Politics in 
Egypt, 1930-1952. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986. 

Gran, Peter. Islamic Roots of Capitalism. Austin: University of Texas 
Press, 1979. 

Groupe de Recherches et d'Etudes sur le Proche-Orient. LEgypte 

d'aujourd'hui: Permanence et changements, 1805-1976. Paris: Centre 

National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1977. 
Haikal, Muhammed Hasanain. Autumn of Fury: The Assassination 

of Sadat. New York: Random House, 1983. 
The Road to Ramadan. New York: Readers Digest Press, 


Hinnebusch, Raymond A. , Jr. Egyptian Politics under Sadat: The Post- 
Populist Development of an Authoritarian-Modernizing State. (Rev. ed.) 
Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner,^T988. 

Hirst, David. The Gun and the Olive Branch. (2d ed.) London: Faber 
and Faber, 1984. 

Hirst, David, and Irene Beeson. Sadat. London: Faber and Faber, 

Hoffman, Michael H. Egypt Before the Pharaohs: The Prehistoric Foun- 
dations of Egyptian Civilization. New York: Knopf, 1979. 

Holt, P.M. Egypt and the Fertile Crescent, 1516-1922. Ithaca: Cor- 
nell University Press, 1966. 

Holt, P.M. (ed.). Political and Social Change in Modern Egypt. Lon- 
don: Oxford University Press, 1968. 

Holt, P.M., Ann K.S. Lambton, and Bernard Lewis (eds.). The 
Cambridge History of Islam. Cambridge: Cambridge University 
Press, 1970. 

Hopwood, Derek. Egypt: Politics and Society, 1945-1984. Boston: 
Allen and Unwin, 1985. 

Hourani, Albert. Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798-1939. Cam- 
bridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984. 

Hunter, Robert. Egypt under the Khedives, 1805-1879: From House- 
hold Government to Modern Bureaucracy. Pittsburgh: University of 
Pittsburgh Press, 1984. 

Irwin, Robert. The Middle East in the Middle Ages: The Early Mamluk 
Sultanate, 1250-1382. London: Croom Helm, 1986. 



Issawi, Charles. The Economic History of the Middle East. Chicago: 

University of Chicago Press, 1966. 
Kamil, Jill. The Ancient Egyptians. Cairo: American University in 

Cairo Press, 1984. 
Kissinger, Henry. Years of Upheaval. Boston: Little, Brown, 1979. 
Lane-Poole, Stanley. Egypt During the Middle Ages. London: 

Methuen, 1925. 

Lenczowski, George. The Middle East in World Affairs. (4th ed.) Itha- 
ca: Cornell University Press, 1980. 

Lewis, Bernard. "Egypt and Syria." Pages 175-232 in P.M. Holt, 
Ann K.S. Lambton, and Bernard Lewis (eds.), The Cambridge 
History of Islam. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970. 

McDermott, Anthony. Egypt from Nasser to Mubarak: A Flawed Revo- 
lution. London: Croom Helm, 1988. 

Marsot, Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid. Egypt in the Reign of Muhammad AH. 
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984. 

. "Muhammad Ali's International Politics." Pages 153-73 

in L 'Egypte au XIXe siecle. Groupe de Recherches et d' Etudes sur 
le Proche Orient. Paris: Centre National de la Recherche Scien- 
tifique, 1982. 

"The Revolutionary Gentlewomen in Egypt." Pages 

261-76 in Louise Beck and Nikki Keddie (eds.), Women in the 
Muslim World. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978. 

Mitchell, Timothy. Colonizing Egypt. Cambridge: Cambridge 
University Press, 1988. 

Noshy, Ibrahim. The Coptic Church. Washington: Ruth Sloane As- 
sociates, 1975. 

Owen, Roger. "Egypt and Europe: From French Expedition to 
British Occupation." Pages 195-209 in Roger Owen and Bob 
Sutcliffe (eds.), Studies in the Theory of Imperialism. London: Long- 
man Group, 1972. 

The Middle East in the World Economy. London: Methuen, 


Radwan, Samir. Capital Formation in Egypt. London: Ithaca Press, 

Ramadan, Abd el-Azim. "Social Significance of the Urabi Revolt." 

Pages 187-96 in L' Egypte au XIXe siecle. Groupe de Recherches 

et d' Etudes sur le Proche Orient. Paris: Centre National de la 

Recherche Scientiflque, 1982. 
Raymond, Andre. Artisans et commerqants au Caire au XVIIIe siecle. 

Damascus: Institut Francais de Damas, 1974. 
Scholch, Alexander. Egypt for the Egyptians. London: Ithaca Press, 



Egypt: A Country Study 

"The Formation of a Peripheral State: Egypt: 1854- 

1882." Pages 175-85 in L'Egypte au XIXe siecle. Groupe de 
Recherches et d' Etudes sur le Proche Orient. Paris: Centre Na- 
tional de la Recherche Scientifique, 1982. 

Smith, W. Stevenson. The Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt. (Rev., 
with additions by William Kelly Simpson). New York: Penguin 
Books, 1981. 

Springborg, Robert. Mubarak's Egypt: Fragmentation of the Political 
Order. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1989. 

Terry, Janice. The Wafd: 1919-1952. London: Third World Centre 
for Research and Publishing, 1982. 

Trigger, B.G., B.J. Kemp, D. O'Connor, and A.B. Lloyd. An- 
cient Egypt: A Social History. Cambridge: Cambridge University 
Press, 1983. 

Tucker, Judith. Women in Nineteenth- Century Egypt. Cambridge: 
Cambridge University Press, 1985. 

Vatikiotis, P.J. The History of Egypt from Muhammad AH to Sadat. Bal- 
timore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980. 

Waterbury, John. The Egypt of Nasser and Sadat: The Political Econo- 
my of Two Regimes. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983. 

Watt, W. Montgomery. Muhammad at Mecca. Oxford: Clarendon 
Press, 1960. 

. Muhammad at Medina. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962. 

Wissa Wassef, Ceres. Egypt. New York: Scala Books, 1983. 

Chapter 2 

Abaza, Mona. The Changing Image of Women in Rural Egypt. (Cairo 
Papers in Social Science, No. 10.) Cairo: American University 
in Cairo Press, 1987. 

Abdel-Fadil, Mahmoud. Development, Income Distribution, and Social 
Change in Rural Egypt, 1952-1970. (Department of Applied Eco- 
nomics, Occasional Papers, No. 45.) London: Cambridge 
University Press, 1975. 

Abdel-Khalek, Gouda, and Robert L. Tignor (eds.). The Political 
Economy of Income Distribution in Egypt. New York: Holmes and 
Meier, 1982. 

Abu-Lughod, Janet. Before European Hegemony: The World System, 
A.D. 1250-1350. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. 

Cairo: 1001 Years of the City Victorious. Princeton: Prince- 
ton University Press, 1971. 



Abu-Lughod, Lila. ''Bedouins, Cassettes, and Technologies of Pub- 
lic Culture," Middle East Report, No. 159, July-August 1989, 
7-11, 47. 

. Veiled Sentiments: Honor and Poetry in a Bedouin Society. Ber- 
keley: University of California Press, 1986. 

Adams, Michael. The Middle East. (Handbooks to the Modern 
World Series.) New York: Facts on File, 1988. 

Akhavi, Shahrough. "Egypt: Neo-Patrimonial Elite." Pages 69- 
113 in Frank Tachau (ed.), Political Elites and Political Develop- 
ment. New York: Wiley, 1975. 

Aldridge, James. Cairo. Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown, 1969. 

al-Guindi, Fadwa. "Veiling Infitah with Muslim Ethic," Social 
Problems, 28, 1981, 465-83. 

Ansari, Hamied. Egypt: The Stalled Society. Albany: State Univer- 
sity of New York Press, 1986. 

"The Islamic Militants in Egyptian Politics, ' ' Internation- 
al Journal of Middle East Studies, 16, No. 1, 1984, 123-44. 

"Sectarian Conflict in Egypt and the Political Expedien- 
cy of Religion," Middle East Journal, 38, No. 3, Summer 1984, 

Aulas, Marie-Christine. "Sadat's Egypt: A Balance Sheet," 
MERIP Reports, 12, No. 107, July- August 1982, 6-11, 14-15, 18. 

Ayrout, Henry Habib. The Egyptian Peasant. (Trans., John Alden 
Williams.) Boston: Beacon Press, 1963. 

Ayubi, Nazih. Bureaucracy and Politics in Contemporary Egypt. Lon- 
don: Ithaca Press, 1980. 

Baker, Raymond. Egypt's Uncertain Revolution under Nasser and Sadat. 
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978. 

Banks, Arthur (ed.). Political Handbook of the World, 1986. Bingham- 
ton: State University of New York Press, 1986. 

Bannerman, Patrick. Islam in Perspective: A Guide to Islamic Society, 
Politics, and Law. London: Routledge for Royal Institute of In- 
ternational Affairs, 1988. 

Beinin, Joel, and Zachary Lockman. Workers on the Nile: National- 
ism, Communism, Islam, and the Egyptian Working Class, 1882-1954. 
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987. 

Berque, Jacques. Egypt: Imperialism and Revolution. (Trans., Jean 
Stewart.) (Books That Matter Series.) New York: Praeger, 1972. 

Binder, Leonard. In a Moment of Enthusiasm: Political Power and the 
Second Stratum in Egypt. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 

Chaichian, Mohammad A. "The Effects of World Capitalist Econ- 
omy on Urbanization in Egypt, 1800-1970," International Jour- 
nal of Middle East Studies, 20, No. 1, February 1988, 23-43. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Committee on Population and Demography. The Estimation of Re- 
cent Trends in Fertility and Mortality in Egypt. (National Academy 
of Science Panel on Egypt, Report No. 9.) Washington: National 
Academy Press, 1982. 

Egypt. Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics. Popu- 
lation, Housing, and Establishment Census, 1986. Cairo: CAPMAS, 

"Egypt." Pages 921-42 in TheEuropa Yearbook, 1986: A World Survey. 

London: Europa, 1986. 
"Egypt." Pages 367-408 in The Middle East and North Africa, 1989. 

London: Europa, 1989. 
"Egypt." Pages 156-61 in Arthur Banks (ed.), Political Handbook 

of the World, 1986. Binghamton: State University of New York 

Press, 1986. 

"Egypt's Infitah Bourgeoisie," Middle East Report, No. 142, 
September-October 1986, 39-40. 

Farah, Nadia Ramsis. Religious Strife in Egypt: Crisis and Ideological 
Conflict in the Seventies. Montreux, Switzerland: Gordon and 
Breach Science, 1986. 

Fernea, Elizabeth Warnock, and Robert Fernea. The Arab World: 
Personal Encounters. Garden City: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1985. 

Fernea, Elizabeth Warnock (ed.). Women and the Family in the Mid- 
dle East: New Voices of Change. Austin: University of Texas Press, 

Fisher, W.B. "Egypt." Pages 480-93 in The Middle East: A Physical, 
Social, and Regional Geography. (6th ed.) London: Methuen, 1971. 

"Egypt: Physical and Social Geography." Pages 364-67 

in The Middle East and North Africa, 1989. London: Europa, 1989. 

Gazetteer of Egypt. (2d ed.) Washington: Defense Mapping Agen- 
cy, August 1987. 

Geiser, Peter. The Egyptian Nubian: A Study in Social Symbiosis. Cairo: 
American University in Cairo Press, 1986. 

Goldberg, Ellis. Tinker, Tailor, and Textile Worker: Class and Politics 
in Egypt, 1930-1952. Berkeley: University of California Press, 

Goldschmidt, Arthur, Jr. Modern Egypt: The Formation of a Nation- 
State. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1988. 

Hammam, Mona. "Egypt's Working Women: Textile Workers 
of Chubra el-Kheima, ' ' MERIP Reports, No. 82, November 1979, 

Harik, Iliya. The Political Mobilization of Peasants: A Study of an Egyptian 
Community. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1974. 

Harris, Lillian Craig (ed.). Egypt: Internal Challenges and Regional 
Stability. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988. 



Hatem, Mervat. "Egypt's Middle Class in Crisis: The Sexual Di- 
vision of Labor," Middle East Journal, 42, No. 2, Summer 1988, 

"Toward the Study of the Psychodynamics of Mother- 
ing and Gender in Egyptian Families," International Journal of 
Middle East Studies, 19, No. 3, August 1987, 287-306. 

Hinnebusch, Raymond A. , Jr. Egyptian Politics under Sadat: The Post- 
Populist Development of an Authoritarian-Modernizing State. (Rev. ed.) 
Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner, 1988. 

Hirschhorn, Norbert. "Appropriate Health Technology in Egypt," 
Middle East Report, No. 161, November-December 1989, 26-28. 

Hussein, Aziza. "Recent Amendments to Egypt's Personal Sta- 
tus Law." Pages 229-32 in Elizabeth Warnock Fernea (ed.), 
Women and the Family in the Middle East: New Voices of Change. 
Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985. 

Ibrahim, Barbara Lethem. "Cairo's Factory Women." Pages 
293-99 in Elizabeth Warnock Fernea (ed.), Women and the Fam- 
ily in the Middle East: New Voices of Change. Austin: University 
of Texas Press, 1985. 

Ibrahim, Ibrahim. "Religion and Politics under Nasser and Sadat, 
1952-1981." Pages 121-34 in Barbara Freyer Stowasser (ed.), 
The Islamic Impulse. London: Croom Helm, 1987. 

Ibrahim, Saad Eddin. "Anatomy of Egypt's Militant Islamic 
Groups: Methodological Note and Preliminary Findings," In- 
ternational Journal of Middle East Studies, 12, No. 4, December 1980, 

"Egypt's Islamic Militants," MERIP Reports, 12, No. 

103, February 1982, 5-14. 

Juynboll, Gautier (trans.). The History of al-Tabari: The Conquest of 
Iraq, Southwestern Persia, and Egypt, 13. (Biblioteca Persica Se- 
ries.) Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989. 

Kepel, Gilles. Muslim Extremism in Egypt: The Prophet and the Pharaoh. 
(Trans., Jan Rothschild.) Berkeley: University of California 
Press, 1986. 

Khadduri, Majid. Modern Libya: A Study in Political Development. Bal- 
timore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1963. 

Khafagy, Fatma. "Women and Labor Migration: One Village in 
Egypt," MERIP Reports, No. 124, June 1984, 17-21. 

LaTowsky, Robert. "Egyptian Labor Abroad: Mass Participation 
and Modest Returns," MERIP Reports, No. 123, May 1984, 

McDermott, Anthony. Egypt from Nasser to Mubarak: A Flawed Revo- 
lution. London: Croom Helm, 1988. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

The Middle East and North Africa, 1989. London: Europa, 1989. 

Momen, Moojan. An Introduction to Shi'i Islam. New Haven: Yale 
University Press, 1985. 

Mortimer, Edward. Faith and Power: The Politics of Islam. New York: 
Random House, 1982. 

Myntti, Cynthia. "Medical Education: The Struggle for Rele- 
vance," Middle East Report, No. 161, November-December 1989, 

Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. Traditional Islam in the Modern World. Lon- 
don: KPI, 1987. 

Orfalea, Gregory. Before the Flames: A Quest for the History of Arab 
Americans. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1988. 

Peretz, Don. The Middle East Today. (2d ed.) Hinsdale, Illinois: 
Dryden Press, 1971. 

Piscatori, James (ed.). Islam in the Political Process. Cambridge: Cam- 
bridge University Press, 1983. 

Richards, Alan. Egypt's Agricultural Development, 1800-1980: Tech- 
nical and Social Change. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1982. 

' ' Egypt ' s Agriculture in Trouble , ' ' MERIP Reports, No . 

84, January 1980, 3-13. 

Rodenbeck, Max. "Revolution of Goodwill," Middle East Interna- 
tional [London], No. 342, January 20, 1989, 12-13. 

' ' Stamping on Extremists, ' ' Middle East International [Lon- 
don], No. 341, January 6, 1989, 12-13. 

' 'Trouble at the Mill, ' ' Middle East International [London] , 

No. 357, August 25, 1989, 13. 

Rugh, Andrea B. Family in Contemporary Egypt. Syracuse: Syracuse 
University Press, 1984. 

' 'Women and Work: Strategies and Choices in a Lower- 

Class Quarter of Cairo." Pages 273-88 in Elizabeth Warnock 
Fernea (ed.), Women and the Family in the Middle East: New Voices 
of Change. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985. 

Saab, Gabriel. The Egyptian Agrarian Reform, 1952-1962. London: 
Oxford University Press, 1967. 

Springborg, Robert. Family, Power, and Politics in Egypt: Say ed Bey 
Marei — His Clan, Clients, and Cohorts. Philadelphia: University 
of Pennsylvania Press, 1982. 

. Mubarak's Egypt: Fragmentation of the Political Order. Boul- 
der, Colorado: Westview Press, 1989. 

Stork, Joe. "Political Aspects of Health, ' ' Middle East Report, No. 
161, November-December 1989, 4-10. 

Taylor, Elizabeth. "Egyptian Migration and Peasant Wives," 
MERIP Reports, No. 124, June 1984, 3-10. 



Tyson, James. "Letter From Siwa," Middle East International [Lon- 
don], No. 352, June 9, 1989, 24. 

Wahba, Mourad. "Social Aspects." Pages 11-30 in Lillian Craig 
Harris (ed.), Egypt: Internal Challenges and Regional Stability. Lon- 
don: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988. 

Waterbury , John. The Egypt of Nasser and Sadat: The Political Econo- 
my of Two Regimes. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983. 

Wikan, Unni. Life among the Urban Poor of Cairo. (Trans. , Ann Hen- 
ning.) New York: Tavistock, 1980. 

_. "Living Conditions among Cairo's Poor: A View from 

Below," Middle East Journal, 39, No. 1, Winter 1985, 7-26. 

Williams, Caroline. "Islamic Cairo: Endangered Legacy," Mid- 
dle East Journal, 39, No. 3, Summer 1985, 231-46. 

Zaalouk, Malak. Power, Class, and Foreign Capital in Egypt: The Rise 
of the New Bourgeoisie. London: Zed Books, 1989. 

Chapter 3 

Abdel-Fadil, Mahmoud. Development, Income Distribution, and Social 
Change in Rural Egypt, 1952-1970. (Department of Applied Eco- 
nomics, Occasional Papers, No. 45.) Cambridge: Cambridge 
University Press, 1975. 

. The Political Economy of Nasserism. (Department of Eco- 
nomics, Occasional Papers, No. 52.) Cambridge: Cambridge 
University Press, 1980. 

Ahmed, Sadiq. Public Finance in Egypt: Its Structure and Trends. (Staff 
Working Papers, No. 639.) Washington: World Bank, 1984. 

Amin, Galal Ahmad. "External Factors in the Reorientation of 
Egypt's Economic Policy." Pages 285-315 in Malcolm Kerr and 
El Sayed Yassin (eds.), Rich and Poor States in the Middle East: Egypt 
and the New Arab Order. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1982. 

Bedding, James. "Money Down the Drain," New Scientist [Lon- 
don], No. 1660, April 15, 1989, 34-38. 

Bremer, Jennifer. New Lands Concepts, Paper 2: Rethinking an AID 
Assistance Strategy for the New Lands of Egypt. Washington: Develop- 
ment Alternatives, 1981. 

Central Bank of Egypt. Economic Review [Cairo], 27, No. 1, 1987. 

Charnock, Anne. "The Greening of Egypt," New Scientist [Lon- 
don], 23, January 23, 1986, 44-48. 

Choucri, Nazli. "The Hidden Economy: A New View of Remit- 
tances in the Arab World," World Development [London], 14, No. 
6, June 1986, 697-712. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Commander, Simon. The State and Agricultural Development in Egypt 
since 1973. London: Ithaca Press for Overseas Development In- 
stitute, London, 1987. 

Cuddihy, William. Agricultural Price Management in Egypt. (Staff 
Working Paper No. 388.) Washington: World Bank, 1980. 

Dairy mple, Dana G. Development and Spread of High-Yielding Rice Var- 
ieties in Developing Countries. (Bureau of Science and Technology 
Series.) Washington: Agency for International Development, 

Development and Spread of High- Yielding Wheat Varieties in 

Developing Countries. (Bureau of Science and Technology Series.) 
Washington: Agency for International Development, 1986. 

Dethier, Jean-Jacques. Trade, Exchange Rate, and Agricultural Pric- 
ing Policies in Egypt. (2 vols.) Washington: World Bank, 1989. 

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Report: Egypt, 1987-88. Lon- 
don, 1988. 

Egypt. Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics. 
Statistical Yearbook, 1952-1987. Cairo: CAPMAS, 1988. 

* 'Egypt." Page 617 in George Kurian (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Third 
World, 1. New York: Facts on File, 1987. " 

"Egypt: Economy." Pages 384-96 in The Middle East and North Afri- 
ca, 1990. London: Europa, 1989. 

Elmusa, Sharif S. "Dependency and Industrialization in the Arab 
World," Arab Studies Quarterly, 8, No. 3, 1986, 253-67. 

Gotsch, Carl, and Wayne Dyer. "Rhetoric and Reason in the Egyp- 
tian 'New Lands,'" Food Research Institute Studies, 18, No. 2, 

Habeeb, William Mark (ed.), U.S. -Egyptian Relations in an Era of 
Economic Constraints, Washington: Middle East Institute and In- 
stitute for National Strategic Studies, 1988. 

Hansen, Bent and Karim Nashashibi. Foreign Trade Regimes and Eco- 
nomic Development: Egypt. New York: Columbia University Press 
for National Bureau of Economic Research, 1975. 

Hopkins, Nicholas. Agrarian Transformation in Egypt. Boulder, 
Colorado: Westview Press, 1987. 

"Mechanized Irrigation in Upper Egypt: The Role of 

Technology and the State in Agriculture." Pages 223-47 in B.L. 
Turner and Stephen Bush (eds.), Comparative Farming Systems, New 
York: Guilford, 1987. 

Husayn, Adil. Al-Iqtisad al-Misri min al-Istiqlal ila al-Tabaiyah (The 
Egyptian Economy from Independence to Dependency). Cairo: 
Dar al-Mustaqbal al-Arabi, 1982. 

Ibrahim, Ibrahim (ed.), Arab Resources. Washington: Center for 
Contemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown University, 1983. 



Ikram, Khalid, et al. Egypt: Management in a Period of Transition. Balti- 
more: Johns Hopkins University Press for the World Bank, 1980. 

Institute of International Finance. Egypt: Country Report, 88, No. 
1, Washington: January 26, 1988. 

. Egypt: Country Report, 88, No. 2, Washington: August 15, 


Egypt: Country Report. 89, No. 1, Washington: February 

8, 1989. 

International Monetary Fund. Financial Statistics, 40. Washington: 

Financial Statistics, 42. Washington: 1989. 

International Rice Research Institute. Rice Farming Systems: New 
Directions. (Proceedings of 1987 international symposium at the 
Rice Research and Training Center, Sakha, Egypt.) Manila: 

Jane's World Railways, 1989-90. (Ed., Allen Geoffrey.) Coulsdon, 
Surrey, United Kingdom: Jane's Information Group, 1989. 

Kishk, M.A. "Land Degradation in the Nile Valley," Ambio, 15, 
No. 4, 1986, 226-30. 

Korayem, Karima. The Impact of Economic Adjustment Policies on the 
Vulnerable Families and Children in Egypt. Cairo: UNICEF, 1987. 

Kubursi, Atif. "Arab Agricultural Productivity: A New Perspec- 
tive." Pages 71-101 in Ibrahim Ibrahim (ed.), Arab Resources. 
Washington: Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, George- 
town University, 1983. 

Lesch, Ann M. "Egyptian Politics in the 1990s." Pages 12-26 in 
William Mark Habeeb (ed.), U.S. -Egyptian Relations in an Era 
of Economic Constraints. Washington: Middle East Institute and 
Institute for National Strategic Studies, 1988. 

Mabro, Robert. The Egyptian Economy, 1952-72. Oxford: Claren- 
don Press, 1974. 

Mabro, Robert, and Samir Radwan. The Industrialization of Egypt, 
1939-1973: Policy and Performance. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976. 

National Bank of Egypt. Economic Bulletin [Cairo], 40, Nos. 1-2, 

Oweiss, Ibrahim. "Egypt's Current Economic Situation." Pages 
2-11 in William Mark Habeeb (ed.), U.S. -Egyptian Relations in 
an Era of Economic Constraints, Washington: Middle East Insti- 
tute and Institute for National Strategic Studies, 1988. 

Pleskovic, Boris. "Interindustry Flows in a General Equilibrium 
Model of Fiscal Incidence: An Application to Egypt," Journal 
of Policy Modeling, 11, No. 1, Spring 1989, 157-77. 

Richards, Alan. Egypt's Agricultural Development, 1800-1980: Tech- 
nical and Social Change. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1982. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Food Problems and Prospects in the Middle East. (Occasional 

Paper Series.) Washington: Center for Contemporary Arab 
Studies, Georgetown University, 1984. 

Richards, Alan, and Philip Martin. ' 'Introduction." Pages 1-14 
in Alan Richards and Philip Martin (eds.), Migration, Mechani- 
zation, and Agricultural Labor Markets in Egypt. Boulder, Colora- 
do: Westview Press, 1983. 

Sadowski, Yahya. "The Sphinx's New Riddle: Why Does Egypt 
Delay Economic Reform?" American- Arab Affairs, 22, Fall 1987, 

Scobie, Grant M. Food Subsidies and the Government Budget in Egypt. 
(Working Papers on Food Subsidies, No. 2.) Washington: In- 
ternational Food Policy Research Institute, 1985. 

Sennitt, Andrew G. (ed.). World Radio TV Handbook, 1990, 44. 
Hvidovre, Denmark: Billboard, 1990. 

Sherbiny, Naiem, and Ismail Serageldin. "Expatriate Labor and 
Economic Growth: Saudi Demand for Egyptian Labor." Pages 
225-57 in Malcolm Kerr and El Sayed Yassin (eds.), Rich and 
Poor States in the Middle East: Egypt and the New Arab Order. Boul- 
der, Colorado: Westview Press, 1982. 

Springborg, Robert. Mubarak's Egypt: Fragmentation of the Political 
Order. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1989. 

Tucker, Judith. Women in Nineteenth-Century Egypt. Cambridge: 
Cambridge University Press, 1985. 

United Nations. Food and Agriculture Organization. World Hun- 
ger. Rome: 1980. 

United States. Department of Commerce. International Trade Ad- 
ministration. Marketing in Egypt. Washington: GPO, December 

Vivian, Cassandra (ed.). Cairo, a Practical Guide. (6th ed.) Cairo: 

American University in Cairo Press, 1986. 
Voll, Sarah. "Egyptian Land Reclamation since the Revolution," 

Middle East Journal, 34, No. 2, Spring 1980, 127-48. 
von Braun, Joachim, and Hartwig de Haen. The Effects of Food Price 

and Subsidy Policies on Egyptian Agriculture. (Research Report No. 

42.) Washington: International Food Policy Research Institute, 


Waterbury, John. The Egypt of Nasser and Sadat: The Political Econo- 
my of Two Regimes. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983. 

Wolfe, Ronald (trans.). Egypt's Second Five- Year Plan for Socio- Economic 
Development (1987/88-1991/92), with Plan for Year One (1987/88). 
Cairo: Professional Business Services, 1987. 

World Bank. "Egypt," Trends in Developing Economies. Washing- 
ton: 1989, 129-34. 



. World Tables, 1988-89. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univer- 
sity Press, 1989. 

World Resources Institute and International Institute for Environ- 
ment and Development. "Food and Agriculture." Pages 51- 
67 and 271-84 in World Resources, 1988-89, Washington: 1989. 

(Various issues of the following publications were also used in 
the preparation of this chapter: Al Ahram [Cairo]; Al Ahram al Iq- 
tisadi [Cairo]; Egypte Contemporaine [Cairo]; Financial Times [Lon- 
don]; International Financial Statistics; Middle East Economic Digest 
[London]; Middle East Report; and World Development Report.) 

Chapter 4 

Abdallah, Ahmed. The Student Movement and National Politics in Egypt. 
London: Saqi Books, 1985. 

Abdel-Fadil, Mahmoud. Development, Income Distribution and Social 
Change in Rural Egypt, 1952-1970. (Department of Applied Eco- 
nomics, Occasional Papers, No. 45.) Cambridge: Cambridge 
University Press, 1975. 

The Political Economy of Nasserism. (Department of Econom- 
ics, Occasional Papers, No. 52.) Cambridge: Cambridge Univer- 
sity Press, 1980. 

Abdel-Khalek, Gouda, and Robert L. Tignor (eds.). The Political 
Economy of Income Distribution in Egypt. London: Holmes and Mei- 
er, 1982. 

Abdel-Malek, Anouar. Egypt: Military Society. New York: Vintage 
Books, 1968. 

Adams, Richard H. Development and Social Change in Rural Egypt. 
Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1986. 

Ajami, Fouad. The Arab Predicament: Arab Political Thought and Prac- 
tice since 1967. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981. 

"The Open Door Economy: Its Roots and Welfare Con- 
sequences." Pages 469-516 in Gouda Abdel-Khalek and Robert 
L. Tignor (eds.), The Political Economy of Income Distribution in 
Egypt. London: Holmes and Meier, 1982. 

Akhavi, Shahrough. "Egypt: Diffused Elite in a Bureaucratic So- 
ciety." Pages 223-65 in I. William Zartman (ed.), Political Elites 
in Arab North Africa. New York: Longman, 1982. 

"Egypt: Neo-Patrimonial Elite." Pages 69-113 in Frank 

Tachau (ed.), Political Elites and Political Development in the Middle 
East. New York: Wiley, 1975. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

al-Guindi, Fadwa. "The Mood in Egypt," Middle East Insight, 4, 
Nos. 4-5, 1986, 30-39. 

Altman, Israel. "Islamic Movements in Egypt," Jerusalem Quar- 
terly [Jerusalem], 10, 1979, 87-105. 

Ansari, Hamied. Egypt: The Stalled Society. Albany: State Univer- 
sity of New York Press, 1986. 

Aulas, Marie Christian. "Sadat's Egypt," New Left Review, 98, 
1976, pp. 84-95. 

. "Sadat's Egypt: A Balance Sheet." Pages 6-18 in MERIP 

Reports, No. 107, July-August 1982. 

Ayubi, Nazih. Bureaucracy and Politics in Contemporary Egypt. Lon- 
don: Ithaca Press, 1980. 

"Implementation Capability and Political Feasibility of 

the Open Door Policy in Egypt." Pages 349-413 in Gouda Ab- 
dul Khalek and Robert L. Tignor (eds.), The Political Economy 
of Income Distribution in Egypt. London: Holmes and Meier, 1982. 

. "The Political Revival of Islam: The Case of Egypt," In- 
ternational Journal of Middle East Studies, 12, No. 4, December 1980, 

Baker, Raymond. Egypt's Uncertain Revolution under Nasser and Sadat. 
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978. 

Beinin, Joel, and Zachary Lockman. Workers on the Nile: National- 
ism, Communism, Islam, and the Egyptian Working Class, 1882-1954. 
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987. 

Berger, Morroe. The Arab World Today. New York: Doubleday, 

Bureaucracy and Society in Modern Egypt. Princeton: Prince- 
ton University Press, 1957. 

Berque, Jacques. Egypt: Imperialism and Revolution. (Trans., Jean 
Stewart.) (Books That Matter Series.) New York: Praeger, 1972. 

Bianchi, Robert. "Businessmen's Associations in Egypt and Tur- 
key," Annals, 482, November 1985, 147-54. 

. "The Corporatization of the Egyptian Labor Movement," 

Middle East Journal, 40, No. 3, Summer 1986, 429-44. 

Binder, Leonard. "Egypt: The Integrative Revolution." Pages 
396-449 in Lucian Pye and Sidney Verba (eds.), Political Cul- 
ture and Political Development. Princeton: Princeton University 
Press, 1965. 

. The Ideological Revolution in the Middle East. New York: 

Wiley, 1964. 

In a Moment of Enthusiasm: Political Power and the Second Stra- 
tum in Egypt. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978. 

"Political Recruitment and Participation in Egypt." Pages 

217-40 in Joseph LaPalombara and Myron Weiner (eds.), 



Political Parties and Political Development. Princeton: Princeton 
University Press, 1966. 

Brown, William. The Last Crusade: A Negotiator's Middle East Hand- 
book. Chicago: Aldine, 1980. 

Buttner, Friedemann. "Political Stability Without Stable Institu- 
tions: The Re-Traditionalization of Egypt's Policy," Orient, 20, 

Cooper, Mark. "Egyptian State Capitalism in Crisis: Economic 
Policies and Political Interests, 1967-1971," International Jour- 
nal of Middle East Studies, 10, No. 4, 1979, 481-516. 

. The Transformation of Egypt. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins 

University Press, 1982. 

Cremeans, Charles D. The Arabs and the World: Nasser's Arab Na- 
tionalist Policy. New York: Praeger, 1963. 

Critchfield, Richard. Shahhat: An Egyptian. Syracuse: Syracuse 
University Press, 1978. 

Dawisha, Adeed. Egypt in the Arab World: The Elements of Foreign 
Policy. New York: Wiley, 1976. 

Dawisha, Adeed, and I. William Zartman. Beyond Coercion: The 
Durability of the Arab State. London: Croom Helm, 1988. 

Deeb, Marius. Party Politics in Egypt: The Wafd and Its Rivals, 
1919-1939. London: Ithaca Press, 1979. 

Dekmejian, Richard Hrair. Egypt under Nasir: A Study in Political 
Dynamics. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1971. 

"Marx, Weber, and the Egyptian Revolution," Middle 

East Journal, 30, No. 2, Spring 1976, 158-72. 

Patterns of Political Leadership: Egypt, Lebanon, Israel. Alba- 
ny: State University of New York Press, 1975. 

Dessouki, Ali E. Hillal. "Policy Making in Egypt: A Case Study 
of the Open Door Policy," Social Problems, 28, No. 4, April 1984, 

"The Politics of Income Distribution in Egypt." Pages 

55-87 in Gouda Abdel-Khalek and Robert L. Tignor (eds.), The 
Political Economy of Income Distribution in Egypt. London: Holmes 
and Meier, 1982. 

Entelis, John P. " Nasir' s Egypt: The Failure of Charismatic 
Leadership," Orbis, 28, No. 2, 1974, 451-64. 

Fahmi, Ismail. Negotiating for Peace in the Middle East. Baltimore: 
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983. 

Goldschmidt, Arthur, Jr. Modern Egypt: The Formation of a Nation- 
State. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1988. 

Groupe de Recherches et d'Etudes sur le Proche-Orient. L'Egypte 
d'aujourd'hui: Permanence et changements, 1805-1976. Paris: Centre 
National de la Recherche, 1977. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Haikal, Muhammed Hasanain. Autumn of Fury: The Assassination 

of Sadat. New York: Random House, 1983. 
Nasir: The Cairo Documents. London: New English Library, 


The Road to Ramadan. New York: Readers Digest Press, 


The Sphinx and the Commissar. New York: Harper and Row, 


Halpern, Manfred. The Politics of Social Change in the Middle East 
and North Africa. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963. 

Harik, Iliya. "Continuity and Change in Local Development Poli- 
cies in Egypt, ' ' International Journal of Middle East Studies, 16, No. 
1, 1984, 43-66. 

. "Mobilization Policy and Rural Change in Egypt." Pages 

287-334 in Iliya Harik and Richard Antoun (eds.), Rural Politics 
and Social Change in the Middle East. Bloomington: Indiana Univer- 
sity Press, 1972. 

"Opinion Leaders and the Mass Media in Rural Egypt," 

American Political Science Review, 65, No. 3, September 1972, 

The Political Mobilization of Peasants: A Study of an Egyptian 

Community. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1974. 
"The Single Party as a Subordinate Movement: The Case 

of Egypt," World Politics, 26, No. 1, October 1973, 80-105. 
Harik, Iliya, and Richard Antoun (eds.). Rural Politics and Social 

Change in the Middle East. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 


Heaphey, James. "The Organization of Egypt: Inadequacies of 
a Non-Political Model of Nation-Building, " World Politics, 26, 
1965, 80-105. 

Hendriks, Bertus. "Egypt's New Political Map: Report from the 
Election Campaign, " Middle East Report, No. 147, July- August 
1987, 23-31. 

Hill, Enid. Mahkama! Studies in the Egyptian Legal System, London: 
Ithaca Press, 1979. 

Hinnebusch, Raymond A. , Jr. Egyptian Politics under Sadat: The Post- 
Populist Development of an Authoritarian-Modernizing State. (Rev. ed.) 
Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner, 1988. 

"From Nasir to Sadat: Elite Transformation in Egypt," 

Journal of Middle East and South Asian Studies, 7, No. 1, Fall 1983, 

"The Re-emergence of the Wafd Party: Glimpses of the 

Liberal Opposition in Egypt, ' ' International Journal of Middle East 
Studies, 16, No. 1, 1984, 99-121. 



Hirst, David, and Irene Beeson. Sadat. London: Faber and Faber, 

Hussein, Mahmoud. Class Conflict in Egypt. New York: Monthly 
Review Press, 1973. 

Ibrahim, Saad Eddin. "Anatomy of Egypt's Militant Islamic 
Groups: Methodological Note and Preliminary Findings," In- 
ternational Journal of Middle East Studies, 12, No. 4, December 1980, 

Issawi, Charles. Egypt in Revolution: An Economic Analysis. New York: 

Oxford University Press, 1963. 
Kepel, Gilles. Muslim Extremism in Egypt: The Prophet and the Pharaoh. 

(Trans., Jan Rothschild.) Berkeley: University of California 

Press, 1986. 

Kerr, Malcolm. The Arab Cold War: Abd al-Nasir and His Rivals. Lon- 
don: Oxford University Press, 1971. 

Kerr, Malcolm, and El Sayed Yassin (eds.). Rich and Poor States 
in the Middle East: Egypt and the New Arab Order. Boulder, Colora- 
do: Westview Press, 1982. 

LaPalombara, Joseph, and Myron Weiner (eds.). Political Parties 
and Political Development. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 

Lenczowski, George (ed.). Political Elites in the Middle East. Washing- 
ton: American Enterprise Institute, 1975. 

Mabro, Robert. The Egyptian Economy, 1952-1972. Oxford: Claren- 
don Press, 1974. 

Mansfield, Peter. Nasser's Egypt. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1969. 

Mayfield, James. Rural Politics in Nasir's Egypt. Austin: University 
of Texas Press, 1971. 

Mitchell, Richard. The Society of the Muslim Brothers. London: Ox- 
ford University Press, 1969. 

Moore, Henry Clement. "Authoritarian Politics in Unincorporated 
Society: The Case of Nasser's Egypt," Comparative Politics, 6, 
No. 2, January 1974, 193-218. " 

Images of Development: Egyptian Engineers in Search of Development. 

Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 1980. 

"Money and Power: The Dilemma of the Egyptian In- 

fitah," Middle East Journal, 40, No. 4, Autumn 1986, 634-50. 

O'Brien, Patrick. The Revolution in Egypt's Economic System: From 
Private Enterprise to Socialism, 1952-1965. London: Oxford Univer- 
sity Press, 1966. 

Owen, Roger. "Mubarak's Dilemma," MERIP Reports, No. 117, 
September 1983, 12-27. 

Post, Erika. "Egypt's Elections." Middle East Report, No. 147, 
July-August 1987, 17-22. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

Pye, Lucian, and Sidney Verba (eds.). Political Culture and Political 

Development. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965. 
Radwan, Samir. Agrarian Reform and Rural Poverty: Egypt, 1952- 

1972. Geneva, Switzerland: ILO, 1977. 
Riad, Mahmoud. The Struggle for Peace in the Middle East. London: 

Quartet Books, 1982. 
Richards, Alan. ''Ten Years of Infitah: Class, Rent, and Policy 

Stasis in Egypt," Journal of Development Studies, 20, No. 4, July 

1984, 323-38. 

Sadat, Anwar. In Search of Identity: An Autobiography. New York: 
Harper and Row, 1978. 

Sennitt, Andrew G. (ed.). World Radio TV Handbook, 1990, 44. 
Hvidovre, Denmark: Billboard, 1990. 

Shazli, Saad. The Crossing of the Suez. San Francisco: American 
Mideast Research, 1980. 

Mubarak's Egypt: Fragmentation of the Political Order. Boul- 
der, Colorado: Westview Press, 1989. 

. "Patrimonialism and Policy Making in Egypt: Nasir and 
Sadat and the Policy for Reclaimed Lands, " Middle Eastern Studies 
[London], 15, No. 1, 26, January 1979, 49-59. 

Springborg, Robert. Family Power and Politics in Egypt: Sayed Bey 
Marei — His Clan, Clients, and Cohorts. Philadelphia: University 
of Pennsylvania Press, 1982. 

"Patterns of Association in the Egyptian Political Elite. " 

Pages 83-107 in George Lenczowski (ed.), Political Elites in the 
Middle East. Washington: American Enterprise Institute, 1975. 

"The President and the Field Marshal: Civil-Military Re- 
lations in Egypt Today." Middle East Report, No. 147, July- 
August 1987, 5-16. 

"Professional Syndicates in Egyptian Politics," Interna- 
tional Journal of Middle East Studies, 9, No. 3, 1978, 275-95. 

Stephens, Robert. Nasser: A Political Biography. New York: Simon 
and Schuster, 1974. 

Tachau, Frank (ed.). Political Elites and Political Development in the 
Middle East. New York: Wiley, 1975. 

Tripp, Charles, and Roger Owen (eds.). Egypt under Mubarak. Lon- 
don: Routledge, 1989. 

Tucker, Judith, and Joe Stork. "Mubarak's Transition." MERIP 
Reports, No. 107, July-August 1982, 3-6. 

Udovitch, L. (ed.). The Middle East: Oil, Politics, and Hope. Lex- 
ington, Massachusetts: Lexington Books, 1976. 

Vatikiotis, P.J. The Egyptian Army in Politics: Pattern for New Nations? 
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1961. 



Nasser and His Generation. New York: St. Martin's Press, 


Waterbury, John. Egypt: Burdens of the Past, Options for the Future. 
Hanover, New Hampshire: American Universities Field Staff, 

The Egypt of Nasser and Sadat: The Political Economy of Two 

Regimes. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983. 

"Egypt: The Wages of Dependency." Pages 291-351 in 

L. Udovitch (ed.), The Middle East: Oil, Politics, and Hope. Lex- 
ington, Massachusetts: Lexington Books, 1976. 

"The Soft State and the Open Door: Egypt's Experience 

with Economic Liberalization, 1974-1984," Comparative Politics, 
18, No. 1, October 1985, 65-83. 

Yaari, Ehud. "Sadat's Pyramid of Power," Jerusalem Quarterly 
[Jerusalem], 14, 1980, 110-21. 

Yoram, Peri. Between Battles and Ballots, Israel's Military in Politics. 
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983. 

Zartman, I. William (ed.). Political Elites in Arab North Africa. New 
York: Longman, 1982. 

Chapter 5 

Abdallah, Ahmed. "The Armed Forces and the Democratic Process 
in Egypt," Third World Quarterly [London], 10, No. 4, October 
1988, 1452-67. 

Amnesty International Report, 1988. London: Amnesty Internation- 
al, 1988. 

Armstrong, CP. "Egypt." Pages 147-65 in Richard A. Gabriel 
(ed.), Fighting Armies : Antagonists in the Middle East: A Combat As- 
sessment. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1983. 

Brassey's Defence Yearbook, 1989. London: Brassey's, 1989. 

Copley, Gregory R. (ed.). "Defense in Egypt," Defense and For- 
eign Affairs, 17, No. 12, December 1989. 

Cowell, Alan. "A Poor Land Torn by a Rich Craving," New York 
Times, May 20, 1989, 14. 

DMS Market Intelligence Reports. DMS Foreign Military Markets — 
Middle East/ Africa. Greenwich, Connecticut: Defense Marketing 
Services, 1989. 

Dunn, Michael C. "Arming for Peacetime: Egypt's Defense In- 
dustry Today," Defense and Foreign Affairs, 15, Nos. 10-11, 
October- November 1987, 20-24. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

"Mother of the World: Egypt in Mubarak's Second 

Term," Defense and Foreign Affairs, 18, Nos. 10-11, October- 
November 1987, 11-15. 

Dupuy, Trevor N. Elusive Victory: The Arab-Israeli Wars, 1947-1974. 
New York: Harper and Row, 1978. 

Dyer, Gwynne, and John Keegan. "Egypt." Pages 162-73 in John 
Keegan (ed.), World Armies. Detroit: Gale Research, 1983. 

"Egypt." Pages 305-15 in Gregory R. Copley (ed.), Defense and 
Foreign Affairs Handbook, 1989. Alexandria, Virginia: International 
Media, 1988. 

"Egypt." Pages 102-6 in George Thomas Kurian (ed.), World En- 
cyclopedia of Police Forces and Penal Systems. New York: Facts on 
File, 1989. 

"Egypt." Pages 143-49 in Charles Miller (ed.), Air Forces of the 
World, 1988-89. Geneva, Switzerland: Interavia, 1988. 

"Egyptian Air Force and Egyptian Air Defence Command. ' ' Pages 
33-37 in International Air Forces and Military Aircraft Directory. 
Stapleford Air Field [Essex, United Kingdom]: Aviation Advi- 
sory Services, 1989. 

Eilts, Hermann Frederick. "Egypt in 1986: Political Disappoint- 
ments and Economic Dilemmas, " Washington Quarterly, 10, No. 
2, Spring 1987, 113-28. 

Gabriel, Richard A. (ed.). Fighting Armies : Antagonists in the Middle 
East: A Combat Assessment. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood 
Press, 1983. 

Gawrych, George W. "The Egyptian High Command in the 1973 
War," Armed Forces and Society, 13, No. 4, Summer 1987, 535-57. 

Gold, Dore. America, the Gulf and Israel: CENTCOM (Central Com- 
mand) and Emerging U. S. Regional Security Policies in the Middle East. 
(Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Tel Aviv University Study 
No. 11). Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1988. 

Harris, Lillian Craig. "Egypt: The Constraints on Revolution," 
Middle East International [London], No. 313, November 21, 1987, 

Hill, Enid. Mahkama! Studies in the Egyptian Legal System. London: 
Ithaca Press, 1979. 

Hinnebusch, Raymond A., Jr. Egyptian Politics under Sadat: The Post- 
Populist Development of an Authoritarian-Modernizing State. (Rev. ed.) 
Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner, 1988. 

International Air Forces and Military Aircraft Directory. Stapleford Air Field 
[Essex, United Kingdom]: Aviation Advisory Services, 1989. 

International Crime Statistics, 1987-1988. St. Cloud, France: Inter- 
national Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) General 
Secretariat, n.d. 



Jabber, Paul. ''Egypt's Crisis, America's Dilemma," Foreign Af- 
fairs, 64, No. 5, Summer 1986, 960-80. 

Jane's Fighting Ships, 1989-90. (Ed., Richard Sharpe.) Alexandria, 
Virginia: Jane's Information Group, 1989. 

Joint Publications Research Service — JPRS (Washington). The fol- 
lowing items are from the JPRS series: 
Translations on the Near East/South Asia. 

"Cairo's Security Chief Interviewed on Crime," Akhir Saah 
[Cairo], January 11, 1989 (JPRS 89-016, March 3, 1989, 
16-21). " 

"Narcotics Traffic, Organized Financial Crime Grow," Al Yaq- 
zah alArahiyah [Cairo], May 1989 (JPRS 89-016-L, July 28, 
1989, 7-8.). 

"Political Violence Phenomenon in Egypt: Qualitative, Analyti- 
cal, and Comparative Study, 1952-87," AlMustaqbal [Beirut], 
November 1988 (JPRS 89-006, January 26, 1989, 19- 24.). 
"Zaki Badr Defends Prison Measures, Emergency Law, Him- 
self," AlAkhbar [Cairo], August 31, 1988 (JPRS 88-082, 
November 21, 1988, 114.). 
Keegan, John (ed.). World Armies. Detroit: Gale Research, 1983. 
Kurian, George Thomas (ed.). World Encyclopedia of Police Forces 

and Penal Systems. New York: Facts on File, 1989. 
Kutter, Wolf D., and Glenn M. Harned. "Interoperability with 
Egyptian Forces," Infantry, 75, No. 1 , January-February 1985, 

Levran, Aharon, and Zeev Eytan. Pages 125-34 in Aharon Levran 
(ed.), The Middle East Military Balance, 1986. Boulder, Colorado: 
Westview Press, 1987. 

Lippman, Thomas W. Egypt after Nasser. New York: Paragon House, 

McDermott, Anthony. Egypt from Nasser to Mubarak: A Flawed Revo- 
lution. New York: Croom Helm, 1988. 

Middleton, Drew. "U.S. Aides Say Egypt Lacks Ability to Han- 
dle Weapons," New York Times, February 21, 1986, A8. 

The Military Balance, 1989-1990. London: International Institute for 
Strategic Studies, 1989. 

Military Technology and Economics (Miltech). Bonn: January 1989. 

Miller, Charles (ed.). Air Forces of the World, 1988-89. Geneva, Swit- 
zerland: Interavia, 1988. 

Miller, Judith. "Cairo's Army Has New Job: Milk the Cow," New 
York Times, November 29, 1985, 114. 

The Multinational Force and Observers. Rome: Office of Public Affairs, 
Multinational Force and Observers, 1987. 


Egypt: A Country Study 

1987 Yearbook on International Communist Affairs. (Ed., Richard F. 

Staar.) Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, 1987. 
Pajak, Roger F. Nuclear Profileration in the Middle East: Implications 

for the Superpowers. (National Security Affairs Monograph Series, 

No. 82-1.) Washington: National Defense University Press, 


Perlmutter, Amos. Egypt: The Praetorian State. New Brunswick, New 
Jersey: Transaction Books, 1974. 

Perry, Glenn E. "Egypt." Pages 429-322 in Richard F. Staar (ed.), 
1987 Yearbook on International Communist Affairs. Stanford, Califor- 
nia: Hoover Institution Press, 1987. 

Sadowski, Yahya. "Egypt's Islamist Movement: A New Political 
and Economic Force," Middle East Insight, 4, No. 4, 1987, 37-44. 

Satloff , Robert B . Army and Politics in Mubarak 's Egypt. Washing- 
ton: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 1988. 

Schuler, G. Henry M. (ed.). Egypt and Nuclear Technology: The "Peace 
Dividend. " (Significant Issues Series 5, No. 9.) Washington: 
Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown 
University, 1983. 

Seib, Gerald F. "Double Duty: Egypt Army Provides Bridges, 
Roads, Goods — and Much Stability," Wall Street Journal, 208, 
No. 89, November 4, 1986, 1,7. 
Springborg, Robert. Mubarak's Egypt: Fragmentation of the Political 
Order. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1989. 

. "The President and the Field Marshal: Civil-Military Re- 
lations in Egypt Today," Middle East Report, No. 147, July- 
August 1987, 5-16. 

United States. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. World Mili- 
tary Expenditures and Arms Transfers, 1988. Washington: GPO, 

Department of Defense. Congressional Presentation for Secu- 
rity Assistance Programs, Fiscal Year 1990. Washington: 1989. 

Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Prac- 
tices for 1987. (Report submitted to United States Congress, 102d, 
1st Session, Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, and House 
of Representatives, Committee on Foreign Affairs.) Washing- 
ton: GPO, February 1988. 

Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Prac- 
tices for 1988. (Report submitted to United States Congress, 103d, 
1st Session, Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, and House 
of Representatives, Committee on Foreign Affairs.) Washing- 
ton: GPO, February 1989. 

Vatikiotis, P.J. The Egyptian Army in Politics: Pattern for New Nations? 
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1961. 



Yaari, Ehud. "Israel's Egypt Problem," Washington Post, March 
13, 1988, C5. 

(Various issues of the following publications were also used in 
the preparation of this chapter: Defense and Foreign Affairs; Economist 
[London]; Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Daily Report, 
Middle East, South Asia; Jane's Defence Weekly [London]; Joint Pub- 
lications Research Service, Near East/ Africa Report; Keesing's Record 
of World Events [Edinburgh] ; Middle East International [London] ; New 
York Times; and Washington Post.) 



Egyptian pound (£E) — Consists of 100 piasters. In early 1990, the 
pound was worth between US$1.00 and US$1.50 depending 
on the exchange rate that applied; the informal market rate 
was £E = US$0.40. 

feddan(s) — Equals 1.038 acres. 

FY (fiscal year)— Since July 1, 1980, July 1 through June 30. 

GDP (gross domestic product) — A value measure of the flow of 
domestic goods and services produced by an economy over a 
period of time, such as a year. Only output values of goods 
for final consumption and investment are included because the 
values of primary and intermediate production are assumed 
to be included in final prices. GDP is sometimes aggregated 
and shown at market prices, meaning that indirect taxes and 
subsidies are included; when these have been eliminated, the 
result is GDP at factor cost. The word gross indicates that deduc- 
tions for depreciation of physical assets have not been made. 
See also GNP. 

GNP (gross national product) — The gross domestic product 
(GDP — q. v. ) plus the net income or loss stemming from trans- 
actions with foreign countries. GNP is the broadest measure 
of the output of goods and services by an economy. It can be 
calculated at market prices, which include indirect taxes and 
subsidies. Because indirect taxes and subsidies are only trans- 
fer payments, GNP is often calculated at factor cost, remov- 
ing indirect taxes and subsidies. 

imam — A word used in several senses. In general use and in low- 
er case, it means the leader of congregational prayers; as such 
it implies no ordination or special spiritual powers beyond suffi- 
cient education to carry out this function. It is also used figura- 
tively by many Sunni (q. v. ) Muslims to mean the leader of the 
Islamic community. Among Shias (q. v. ) the word takes on many 
complex meanings; in general, it indicates that particular 
descendant of the House of Ali ibn Abu Talib, who is believed 
to have been God's designated repository of the spiritual 
authority inherent in that line. The identity of this individual 
and the means of ascertaining his identity have been the major 
issues causing divisions among Shias. 

infitah — Literally open door; refers to Anwar as Sadat's policy af- 
ter the October 1973 War of relaxing government controls on 


Egypt: A Country Study 

the economy so as to encourage the private sector and stimu- 
late the inflow of foreign funds. 
International Monetary Fund (IMF) — Established along with the 
World Bank (q.v.) in 1945, the IMF is a specialized agency 
affiliated with the United Nations (UN) and is responsible for 
stabilizing international exchange rates and payments. The 
main business of the IMF is the provision of loans to its mem- 
bers (including industrialized and developing countries) when 
they experience balance of payments difficulties. These loans 
frequendy carry conditions that require substantial internal eco- 
nomic adjustments by the recipients, most of which are develop- 
ing countries. 

Ismaili Shia Islam — A subsect of Shia Islam that takes its name 
from Imam Muhammad ibn Ismail, the Seventh Imam. Ismaili 
Shia doctrine closely resembled Twelver Shia Islam with regard 
to observance of the sharia but also included a system of 
philosophy and science coordinated with religion that proved 
the divine origin of the imamate and the rights of the Fatimids 
to it. Ubaid Allah, al Mahdi, the founder of the Fatimid Dy- 
nasty, came to North Africa in the early tenth century and 
actively promoted the Ismaili faith. See also Shia. 

khedive — Name given to the ruler of Egypt from 1867 to 1914. 
He governed as semi-independent viceroy of the sultan of 

mufti — Religious jurist who issues judgments and opinions on Is- 
lamic law and precedent. 

patrimonial — Relates to an estate or any heritage from one's father 
or other ancestors. 

pharaonic — Refers to the glories of Egypt's ancient period under 
the rule of the pharaohs. 

piaster — See Egyptian pound. 

Shia (from Shiat Ali, the Party of Ali) — A member of the smaller 
of the two great divisions of Islam. The Shias supported the 
claims of Ali and his line to presumptive right to the caliphate 
and leadership of the Muslim community, and on this issue 
they divided from the Sunni (q. v. ) in the great schism within 
Islam. Later schisms have produced further divisions among 
the Shias over the identity and number of Imams (q. v.). Most 
Shias revere Twelve Imams, the last of whom is believed to 
be in hiding. Ismaili Shias are connected with the Fatimid Dy- 
nasty in Egypt; some believe that Muhammad ibn Ismail, the 
Seventh Imam, was the last Imam. See also Ismaili Shia Islam. 

Special Drawing Right(s) (SDR) — A monetary unit of the Inter- 
national Monetary Fund (IMF) (q.v.) based on a basket of 



international currencies consisting of the United States dollar, 
the German deutschmark, the Japanese yen, the British pound 
sterling, and the French franc, 
statist — One who advocates the concentration of all economic con- 
trols and planning in the hands of a highly centralized 

Sublime Porte — Ottoman Empire palace entrance that provided 
access to the chief minister, representing the government and 
the sultan. Term came to mean the Ottoman government. 

Sunni (from sunna, orthodox) — A member of the larger of the two 
great divisions of Islam. The Sunnis supported the traditional 
method of election to the caliphate and accepted the Umayyad 
line. On this issue they divided from the Shias (q. v. ) in the great 
schism within Islam. 

West Bank — The portion of Jordan west of the Jordan River and 
the Dead Sea that was seized by Israel in the June 1967 War 
(Arab-Israeli war, also known as the Six-Day War) and in 1991 
remained Israeli-occupied territory. 

World Bank — Informal name used to designate a group of three 
affiliated international institutions: the International Bank for 
Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the International 
Development Association (IDA), and the International Finance 
Corporation (IFC). The IBRD, established in 1945, has the 
primary purpose of providing loans to developing countries for 
productive projects. The IDA, a legally separate loan fund, 
but administered by the staff of the IBRD, was set up in 1960 
to furnish credits to the poorest developing countries on much 
easier terms than those of conventional IBRD loans. The IFC, 
founded in 1956, supplements the activities of the IBRD 
through loans and assistance designed specifically to encourage 
the growth of productive private enterprises in the less devel- 
oped countries. The president and certain senior officers of the 
IBRD hold the same positions in the IFC . The three institu- 
tions are owned by the governments of the countries that sub- 
scribe their capital. To participate in the World Bank group, 
member states must first belong to the International Mone- 
tary Fund (IMF— q.v.). 



Abbas (Khedive), 43 

Abbas Hilmi I, 31, 33 

Abbasid caliphate, 4, 20, 21; destruc- 
tion of, by Mongols, 24; migration of 
Turkish tribes during, 23; occupation 
of, by Turks, 24; return of Egypt to, 22 

Abbasid Empire, 23 

Abdin Palace, 47 

Abduh, Muhammad, 45 

Abdul Aziz (Sultan), 36 

Abdulla, Ismail Sabri, 247 

Abdul Majid, Ismat, xxxii, xxxiii, 240, 

Abu an Nasr, Muhammad Hamid, 270 

Abu an Nur, Abdul Muhsin, 71 

Abu Bakr, 134 

Abu Basha, Hassan, 240 

Abu Ghazala, Abdul Halim, 240, 249, 
304, 322; American connections of, 
247; career of, 246-47, 305; concern of, 
over Israel, 302; dismissed, 305; insti- 
tution of privileges for military, 247, 
320-21; military production under, 
327; Military Technical Academy un- 
der, 318 

Abu Qir, 27 

Abu Rudays oil fields, 80 

Abu Simbel (Abu Sunbul), 12, 111, 163 

Abu Sunbul. See Abu Simbel 

Abu Talib, Yusuf Sabri, 305 

Abu Uwayqilah, 296, 299 

Abu Zaabal Company for Engineering 

Industries, 328 
Abu Zaabal Tank Repair Factory, 328 
ACDA. See United States Arms Control 

and Disarmament Agency 
Achaemenid Empire (Persian Empire), 13 
Achille Lauro hijacking, 214, 247, 287 
Acre, 27, 30 
Actium, battle of, 15 
Ad Dawah, 262 
Aden, 48 
Afghanistan, 135 

Africa, 135; Cairo as transshipment point 
for, 106; North, 134; as part of Egyp- 
tian Fatimid Empire, 21; role of Egypt 
in, 279 

African Development Bank, xxviii 

Afrika Korps, 295 
afterlife, 3, 5, 10 

AGIP. See Azienda Generale Italiana dei 

agrarian reform, 67, 180, 238, 264; fer- 
tilizers and pesticides encouraged un- 
der, 196; successes of, 252 
Agrarian Reform Law of 1952, 58 
Agricultural Affairs Committee, 264 
agricultural cooperatives, 183, 184 
agricultural inputs: cost of, 196; subsidies 

for, 186, 196, 250 
agricultural laborers, 33, 175 
agricultural production: in ancient Egypt, 
5; fall in, 158; insufficiency of, xxvi, 
182; land suitable for, xxv; problems 
with, xxvi 
agricultural products (see also under names 
of crops), xxv; controlled crops, 187; 
fruits, 192, 193, 207; kinds of, 188; 
vegetables, 192, 207 
agricultural sector, xxv, 32; as key eco- 
nomic sector, 180; share of GDP, 159; 
stagnation in, 158 
agriculture (see also under cropping pat- 
terns), 229; arable land, 179; area cul- 
tivated, 179; as basis for development 
under Muhammad Ali, 29; controls on, 
169, 180; conversion to cash-crop, 32; 
under Fatimids, 22; food security, 181; 
growth of, 184; impact of import trends 
on, 208; irrigation projects for, 36, 
193-94; mechanization of, 195; mili- 
tary production in, 325-27; technolog- 
ical changes, 193 
Agriculture, Ministry of, 184 
Ahmose: unification of Egypt by, 10 
aid: from Arab states, 219, 280, 281; eco- 
nomic, xxvi, 166; military, xxvi, xxxiv; 
from Paris Club, xxvi; from United 
States, xxvi; from West, 280 
AID. See United States Agency for Inter- 
national Development 
Aida, 107 

Air Defense Academy, 318 

Air Defense Force, 315-16; commander 
of, 306; conscripts in, 293; military 
materiel of, 311; reserves of, 320; 


Egypt: A Country Study 

volunteers in, 293 
air defense network, 315 
air force, 311-13; commander of, 306; 

conscripts in, 293; destruction of, in 

June 1967 War, 298; materiel, 314-15; 

reserves of, 320; support of navy by, 

314-15; volunteers in, 293 
Air Force Academy, 318 
airlines, 163-64 
airports, 163-64 
Air Sinai, 163-64 

Akhenaten (Pharaoh) (Amenhotep IV), 12 

Akhetaten (Tall al Amarinah; Tell al 
Amarna), 12 

AlAhali, 262 

Al Ahram, 261 

AlAhrar, 262 

AlAkhbar, 261 

Al Alamayn, 295 

Al Arish, 18, 103 

AlAwd, 81 

Al Awja, 296 

Al Azhar Mosque, 57 

Al Azhar University, 27, 40, 47, 113, 139; 
as center of Islamic orthodoxy, 23, 135, 
280; founding of, xxiii, 21-22; as in- 
terpreter of sharia, xxiii; reform of, 136 

Al Burullus, 100 

Aldred, Cyril, 11, 12 

Alexander the Great, 15, 101, 110; Alex- 
andria founded by, 14, 108; death of, 
14; defeat of Persians by, 13; welcome 
of, by Egyptians, 14 

Alexandria (Al Iskandariyah), 11, 16, 18, 
26, 27, 31, 34, 57, 60, 107-8, 118, 141; 
airport, 163; anti-European riots in, 40; 
Armenians in, 110; British bombard- 
ment of, 40; British occupation of, 40; 
burning of, 40; conquered by Amr, 
134; courts in, 259; decline of, 108; 
demonstrations in, 49, 54, 70; elite in, 
113; under Fatimids, 22; founded by 
Alexander, 14, 108; free zone near, 
218; governorate of, 95; Greeks in, 110; 
impact of post- World War II urbani- 
zation on, 94; as industrial center, 108, 
205; infant mortality in, 150; library at, 
14; minorities in, 110; naval base in, 
313; Nubians in, 111; patriarchate of, 
17; population of, 108; port of, 164; 
precipitation in, 103; surrender of, to 
Amr, 20; telephone system, 165; tem- 
perature in, 103 

Al Fatah, 68 

Al Fayyum, 47, 108 

Al Fayyum Oasis, 101 

Al Fustat, 20, 21, 134, 135 

Algeria: investment in Egyptian tourist 

center, 215; national movement, 61 
AlGhardaqah, 102, 163, 215; naval base 

in, 313 
Al Hizb ash Shaab, 50 
Al Hizb al Umma. See Umma Party 
Al Hizb al Watani. See National Party 
Al Hizb al Watani al Ahli (National 

Popular Party), 40 
Ali, 21, 134 

Ali, Ahmad Ismail, 238, 245 
Ali, Kamal Hassan, 238, 240, 241 
Ali Bey al Kabir, 25, 26, 29 
Al Ihtisan, 262 

Al Ikhwan al Muslimun. See Muslim 

alimony, 129 

Al Iskandariyah. See Alexandria 
Al Ismailiyah. See Ismailiya 
Al Izbakiya Gardens, 107 
Al Jaridah, 45 

Al Jihad, xxiv, xxxiv, 86, 270; assassina- 
tion of Sadat by, xxiv, 86, 139, 213, 
276, 279, 294, 335; imprisonment of, 

Al Jizah. See Giza 

Allenby, Edmund, 48, 50 

Al Liwa, 45 

Al Liwa al Islami, 262 

Al Maadi Company for Engineering In- 
dustries, 328 

Al Mahallah al Kubra, 108 

Al Mansurah, 47, 108 

AlMayu, 262 

Al Minya, 108 

Al Mutazz (Caliph), 21 

Al Qahirah. See Cairo 

Al Qalyubiyah, 205 

Al Wafd, 262 

Al Wafd al Misri. See Wafd 
Amain, 22 

Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten), 12 
Amenophis I (Pharaoh), 11 
Amenophis III (Pharaoh), 11-12 
American Civil War: effect of, on cotton 
market, 32, 180; effect of, on Egyp- 
tian cotton, 33 
Americans working in Egypt, 109-10